Afterlife and Sri Lankan civil wars: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (book review)

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida won the Booker Prize in 2022 – that’s how I first heard about it. I only knew it told the story of a war photographer from Sri Lanka who died and woke up in a “celestial visa office”. Quite intriguing, isn’t it?!

A small fun-fact before going further – the book was published in India with another title: Chats with the Dead.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida in a nutshell

Maali Almeida finds himself in the afterlife – a place that reminds of the traditional tax office. He has 7 “moons” (concept similar to days) to finish up his Earthly businesses before his passage to The Light. But as a war photographer and gambler, his life was far from simple.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is the story of a romantic soul in the middle of the Sri Lankan civil wars. He believes that his photographs have the power to bring down governments, corrupt politicians, and shed some light on the troubled history of Sri Lanka.

My overall impression

Interesting, but not my cup of tea. And let me tell you why, because there are high chances that you enjoy it, despite my personal opinion.

This book had 2 laitmotifs: afterlife and politics.

The first theme I enjoyed a lot – the imagined world where souls arrive, the seemingly bureaucratic process (“celestial visa office”), and the good vs. evil forces that entice souls on their sides. While reading these sections I was thinking a lot of the movie Soul – a movie I recommend! 🙂

The second theme – politics – is not really my cup of tea. The plot is politics-heavy, filled with details of Sri Lanka’s civil wars and power plays. While I was curious to learn a bit about the country’s history, it was too much for me. It reminded me a bit of reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow – same feeling that it’s more a history book rather than a fiction story.

An undercover whodunit

Only when getting close to the end of the book I realized that the story can be seen as a whodunit book – namely a type of murder mystery focusing on discovering the criminal. Right from the beginning of the book you know that Maali Almeida is dead, but who killed him is not clear at all.

When looking through the lens of a murder mystery, my feelings about the book get a bit better. I enjoy reading witty murder mysteries, some examples of my favourite ones being The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my review) and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (my review). Even the recently-read The Sentence (my review) has some flavours of a murder mystery 😉


The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a story dealing with complex and painful topics (military atrocities, civil unrest, and ethical dilemmas), sprinkled with celestial vibes and playfulness. The politics-heavy plot will steal your heart if you’re keen on politics, otherwise read it with an open mind and take what’s the most interesting for you.

If you would like to buy this book, please consider using one of these links: Amazon | Waterstones | Carturesti. Thank you!

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‘Till next time … happy reading!


3 thoughts on “Afterlife and Sri Lankan civil wars: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (book review)

  1. I just started reading this book yesterday. It’s the second book set in Sri Lanka I’ve read in a month, which is odd because those are the only two books I’ve ever read set in Sri Lanka, except a romantic historical novel years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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