January 2, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

Abraham's Promise

Abraham's Promise
Philip Jeyaretnam

Abraham Isaac, a Tamil-speaking Latin teacher, experiences the transition from Singapore's late colonial era to independence as endless loss. He faces each disaster with the stoicism of a Cato. In contrast to his boyhood friend Krishna, Isaac is essentially apolitical, but his career and marriage are destroyed nonetheless when Isaac writes an imprudent letter to the Straits Times. Neither pleasant nor polished, Abraham's Promise is nonetheless nicely done. Jeyaretnam has a knack for getting a voice right, which makes this little novel truly haunting, and if there's not much range or grace or humor here, Jeyaretnam hits his one note precisely and gets off the stage.