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BOOKREVIEW

SAM'S STORY by Capt. Elmo Jayawardene - A REVIEW

It is not often that one can get into the mind of simple folk and understand and empathize with their way of thinking and style of living. They are too often dismissed as having nothing worthwhile to say - best seen, but not heard, so to speak. "Sam's Story" refutes this theory. Written by Captain Elmo Jayawardene, it is a refreshingly candid and moving story which traces the life of Sam, a boy raised in a remote rustic village and brought to work in Colombo as a house boy. Life was difficult, and survival was a struggle in the village where Sam lived with his mother, who tapped rubber for a living and cursed Sam's father because she had'loo many mouths to feed."

In contrast, the "River House" where Sam was brought to work offered more comfort and more recognition for him. In his own words "something new I leamt in the River Housethe business of laughing and being happy ". Under his Master's and Madarn's kindly care, he grows and learns his work which includes running "like a bat straight from hell" when needed !.Yet there are always conflicts. Leandro the Tamil cook is always taunting him. The ethnic war is a hot topic of discussion and dissension among them. Even his Master and Madam discuss it with their friends , and conclude that "it is all meaningless", but no one truly understands the impact of the war till the end of the story.

The writer weaves the story like a rich tapestry of the times we live in. Poverty is juxtaposed with prosperity, Intolerance with compassion , laughter with tears, tragedy with hope. Characters move in and out like threads woven into the fabric of the story. Bright threads and somber ones. Each character is representative of Sri Lanka's many faces: the village mudalali, the cook, the Boy and Girl who study abroad , the Master who flies a big "aerobblane", and the Madam who waits for "her babies " to return for the holidays.

The story brims with life and colour, from its smooth easy narration to its picturesque description and idiom. Underlying Sam's Story is the story of Sri Lanka's joy and sorrow. Interspersed with communal strife, greed and corruption are nostalgic cameos of happier days with family get -togethers, love affairs, egg hoppers and gin and tonics. The finale of the story shows how the war eats away into the very heart of life and has an effect on every person. The reconciliation of the two arch enemies Leandro and Sam in the aftermath of tragedy, symbolizes a glimmer of hope not just for them but for this bruised and battered land. A land where moments of joy and peace are like the "flower fields in the river"- fragile and fleeting. "Sam's Story" is a heart-warming, thought provoking read.


Dawn Rodriguez