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Half Gods

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  114 reviews
A startlingly beautiful debut, Half Gods brings together the exiled, the disappeared, the seekers. Following the fractured origins and destines of two brothers named after demigods from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, we meet a family struggling with the reverberations of the past in their lives. These ten interlinked stories redraw the map of our world in surprising way ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I'm actually surprised I'm rating it this highly since I almost put it down in the beginning, but this is a beautifully written collection of short stories that deserves some accolades. Not every story hits the mark, although all of them are gorgeous, but some packed a punch and left me staring at the page, breathless. The melancholy undercurrent that travels through each of these stories drew me in and left me with the sense that the author was doing something profound.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Half Gods is a remarkable book that weaves a collection of stories together containing ancient and modern-day themes. The common thread is Family, survival and moving through the complex arrays of living, healing, preserving the beauty of a culture ravaged by war while healing and moving forward through the traumas of life. I thoroughly enjoyed the rich and unique language through which Kumarasamy brings her characters and their lives into being. Once I started the book I was immersed into a wor ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: border
the whole beautiful heavy weight of this world. prose to savour. the Sad kept me from reading it too quickly. loosely linked stories to build a novel, heartrending, haunting stories, dealing with (dis)location and loss, reluctance and (mis)giving, reconcilliation and tremors of the spirit. "why do a few sad events have to make a whole life unhappy?"

these, the kind of characters that will stay with me for long long.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Man or god or demon, let him in!”
- Mahābhārata

So goes the epigraph at the beginning of this rich collection of interlinked stories. Loosely reminiscent of this Hindu epic/chaotic tale of tales, Kumarasamy’s collection is told in a kaleidoscopic and non-linear fashion, with multi-voiced narratives that seamlessly shift in perspective.

These are stories that capture the nuances of life and people affected by the Sri Lankan Civil War. Each time, it scares me to think of how recently everything end
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars.

For someone as young as she appears in her dust jacket photo, Akil Kumarasamy writes with remarkable maturity and wisdom. How she can depict so many different times and places, and occupy the bodies and minds of so many different characters, is truly impressive.

I eagerly await more works from this author.
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
These linked short stories are generally about the brothers Arjun and Karna, who were named for half gods in the Mahabharata. The stories, set in America, Sri Lanka and India, shift back and forth in time and are told from varying points of view. Some of the stories feature the family members only tangentially, or not at all. However, the stories all deal with the feelings of displacement you can have, whether in your own country or your adopted country, due to separations along lines of ethnici ...more
Kathleen Gray
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and passionate set of linked short stories about a Sri Lankan family. Not all of the 10 stories soar equally but they are all beautifully written. I'm not sure whether I liked the insight into life in Sri Lanka or into the lives of the family members in the US more but I do know they all gave me insight into a culture I was not previously familiar with. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Try this for an immersive and wonderful read. ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
A beautiful collection of interconnected stories. Took me a few to get into but that's the nature of the medium. After a while I was thoroughly engrossed and finished this in two days. Will definitely keep an eye out for more from this author in the future. ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The connected stories in Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy create an intergenerational history of an Indian Tamil family from the first generation who left India to work in the tea estates of Sri Lanka to children born in America.

The stories are heart-breaking, some addressing the discrimination and murder of Tamils in Sri Lanka while others explore the immigrant experience. I am haunted by these characters with their complicated back stories. The storytelling is mesmerizing. Sometimes I felt a bit
Ann (Inky Labyrinth)
4.5//5 stars

"Alone in the house, Rasheed and I waited for life to reveal itself. We would climb onto the roof after the sky had darkened. We could hear birds but not see them, and we called out to the unseen, the world around us.”

This book is composed of short stories taking place in different places and times: from a modern New Jersey suburb to a Sri Lankan tea plantation in the 1930's. All of these stories connect in some way, and eventually form a fractured narrative focusing on Rasheed and K
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kumarasamy’s “Half Gods” is a brilliantly written collection of stories that primarily revolves around one family whose history begins in the Sri Lankan civil war as Tamil refugees and ends up with them in New Jersey dealing with the complexities of love, family, and holding on to your roots of a home that has displaced you.

Unfamiliar with the history of the civil war in Sri Lanka I had to do a little research myself as one of my favorite stories in this collection “A Story of Happiness” is tol
Michelle  Hogmire
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Truly beautiful writing on the sentence level, and Kumarasamy is one of those rare writers who can pull off a short story cycle--where each piece stands alone, as well as builds on one another--but the prose is often too MFA (read: so finely polished that we lose a sense of personality). Whenever the author dips into the surreal, it's so wonderful that I wished more of the stories had strayed away from realism. Highly impressive for a debut. ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars I picked this out based solely on the cover and I'm so glad I did. Highly recommended. ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Don't give up on this book if you find the beginning a little disjointed and hard to follow. The author's style takes a little getting used to and there are a fair number of characters but the shifting perspectives/time periods will fall in to place. I enjoyed the stories in Ceylon/Sri Lanka more than those set in NY/New Jersey. Some very moving and beautiful writing. By the end of the book I was so enthralled I went right back to chapter one since I had read the beginning confused and unsure if ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kumarasamy's debut novel is a heartbreak and a deliverance. Her characters' voices are clear and distinct. This work holds so much history and humanity in its pages. ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t necessarily like short stories. BUT. The language in these interconnected tales is so beautifully descriptive I can only rave about this book. So many phrases and sentences took my breath away. Read it and see for yourself. One BIG complaint -- the print in the hardcover is far too SMALL
Sarah Cook
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy is a new collection of short stories that all touch in some way upon the journeys of two brothers who are both named after demigods from the ancient text The Mahabharata. These stories, while spanning great distances in geography and time, all feel like parts of a larger work, a family narrative that is startling and beautiful. The book won't be released until June, but I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

I really enjoye
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Intriguing interlocking stories of characters-without-borders (both geographically and within the book) who appear and reappear to have a ghostly impact on the narrative. The undercurrent of the stories is of displaced peoples (mainly Sri Lankan Tamil, but also others escaping different losses) finding their new lives haunted by their past, across generations. Wonderful writerly control and deep but paradoxical descriptions make it an impressive debut. Was amazed by the rich (and verifiably corr ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked this up in the library knowing nothing about it and I’m really glad I took a chance. Half Gods is a series of interconnected stories that focus on two brothers, Arjuna and Karna, the two half gods of the title named after characters in the Mahabharata. It opens when they are brothers living with their mother and grandfather in New Jersey, introducing some of the family’s backstory which begun with their grandfather emigrating from Sri Lanka when it was still Ceylon and looking at their ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: early-reads
I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher through Goodreads Giveaways.

This is a beautiful collection of short stories about related people in different vignettes in the U.S. and in Sri Lanka. The author has a poetic style with her language. It seems like everyday events are beautiful occasions when she puts her sentences together. It appears a bit dreamy at times like an outsider viewing the actors as if in a play.
I have to admit my ignorance at most of anything related to Sri Lank
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Each story is a gem that shines on it's own. But when read in a sequence, a delicate silk thread links them together forming a beautiful necklace. I enjoyed all the stories and especially liked 'The Butcher'. It reminded me of James Joyce's 'The Dead'. ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Amazing debut. Kumarasamy is a truly skilled writer. She can do fantastic, provocative imagery as well as she does dynamic plot lines. Her work has a sort of a magical realism feel to it without the heavy-handed metaphorical quality that generally bogs down actual magical realism.

In each moment of her stories she knows precisely what matters, what item creates the best parallels to her characters' internal conflict, and the larger narratives her characters fall victim to.

My only gripe with her
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-in-2018
Thanks to FSG for sending me a review copy!

Ohhhh this book. This book. At page 10, I almost abandoned it and told myself I'd try another ten pages. I did the same thing at page 20, and 30, because I think reading books means trusting the author enough to let them surprise you - and OH was I surprised. It's layered and brutally specific and immersive.

This isn't quite a novel - it's ten interconnected stories that follow one Sri Lankan family through decades, from tea plantations and the violent k
Aamir Ansari
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I probably wouldn't have picked this one up if I hadn't seen it being reviewed in The New Yorker. That being said, I'm glad I read it. It's a collection of short stories connecting a series of characters across generations, all in some form of exile from their lives. The writing was a little uneven; some of the stories (particularly the last two) soared while others I had to plod through. Overall, a good read. I look forward to more from the writer. ...more
Fran Blake
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Akil Kumarasamy is a beautiful writer. The stories are wonderful, sensitve, profound.
Robert Sheard
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't know whether it's because I don't know enough about Sri Lanka's history and culture, or if it's that the stories fail the make the necessary links for the reader, but throughout this series of linked stories, I was never sure who was whom or when the stories were set because it all jumped around so much, with zero signposting to help us out. There's some very interesting relationships and characters, but nothing coheres for me. ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The interlinked stories in Half Gods spins a marvelous multilayered tale. There is the story of war and loss. There is the story of coming of age of the two brother Arjun and Karna. There is the story of friendships across cultures. There is the story of a shy entomologist finding his inner strength on his journey to find his missing son. The overarching story is one of the resilience of the human spirit and it’s ability to rise above adversity and find joy.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Magical Realism

There are no talking cats like in Haruki Murakami’s novels, but there is magical realism in Half Gods. Interlacing the telling of war, displacement and loss with magical realism creates a stunning and magical effect. Especially loved ‘The office of the missing persons’ and ‘A story of Happiness’.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
*won in a Goodreads giveaway*

I was very intrigued by the premise of this book. I admit I knew almost nothing about the Sri Lankan civil war, despite there being a family of Sri Lankans that moved to my town and attended high school with me. I didn't know them well and never learned their story, but couldn't help but think of them while reading this book.

The stories span generations and continents and painted a vibrant picture of family, love, loss, heritage and grief. The first and last stories
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the tea plantations in Ceylon on the eve of independence from the British, to the shores of New Jersey; From the alleys in Calcutta during a religious riot to a library in London - Half Gods has an amazing range. People and events connect in surprising and unexpected ways in the space time continuum. There is a hint of surrealism, which adds a certain edginess to the stories. Overall enjoyed reading the book.
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