Set in 1940s rural Trinidad and Tobago, Hungry Ghosts paints a vivid picture of life on the Changoor farm, where Dalton and Marlee Changoor enjoy a life of opulence far removed from the impoverished families living in the ramshackle barrack by the river. Among these families are the Saroops, including Hans, Shweta, and their son, Krishna, whose lives are marked by back-breaking work and poverty. When Dalton disappears and Marlee's safety is jeopardised, Hans, a farmhand, is offered a tempting offer to become the farm's watchman, an offer he cannot refuse. However, as the mystery surrounding Dalton's vanishing unravels, their destinies become perilously intertwined, forever altering their close-knit community.
Hosein immediately draws readers into the narrative with his skillful use of language and vivid imagery, setting the stage for the story's gritty and impactful nature. His dedication to authenticity is evident as he transports us to 1940s Trinidad and Tobago, immersing readers in a richly detailed world through thorough research and evocative writing. Hosein's storytelling plunges readers into a diverse and vibrant backdrop filled with lush descriptions of natural surroundings and local cuisine. He avoids excessive explanations of Bell Village's culture, leaving Hindi and Creole terms untranslated. Religious tensions between elite Christians and lower-caste Hindus are presented as inherent aspects of the social landscape, effectively highlighting the enduring influence of colonialism on the surroundings. In sum, Hosein adeptly breathes life into the setting.
Additionally, Hosein skillfully explores themes such as classism, racism, religion, tradition, jealousy, love, and violence, offering readers a thought-provoking narrative. At its core, the story revolves around the sharp contrast between the Saroop family's poverty and the Changoors' wealth, shedding light on the enduring impact of British colonialism on class disparities. The narrative introduces us to the barrack, a run-down building housing five struggling families, emblematic of the lasting consequences of the indentured servitude system. For Hans, Shweta, and their son Krishna, who reside here, it stands as a stark reminder of Trinidad's colonial past. Their living conditions are characterised by small, deteriorating rooms separated by fragile wooden partitions that afford little privacy. Lacking modern amenities like indoor plumbing or proper kitchens, and with roofs that leak, this living arrangement vividly illustrates the hardships faced by the Saroops and their fellow impoverished families. They also contend with racism perpetuated by some townsfolk who unfairly stereotype Hindus as cow-worshippers and illiterate individuals.
All in all, Hungry Ghosts is a must-read, showcasing Hosein's talent for crafting a powerful and thought-provoking tale.