A mesmerizing novel about the brutal and lasting effects of poverty and violence.Arun, a young man of privileged background, leaves his home in the prosperous north of his Southeast Asian island nation to teach in the devastated south, where a civil war between the military and rebel insurgents profoundly affects daily life. Idealistic and driven by a need to give meaning to his life, Arun relinquishes the trappings of wealth to dedicate himself to improving the lot of the "2 percenters," as the country's southern population is called. Over the course of several months he befriends some of the local people-Jaisaram, the local butcher, and his daughter Anjani, who reads to her father from romance novels; Kumarsingh, a "go-getting" entrepreneur; Seth, an American-trained army captain stationed at the local base; and various pupils. In Omeara, however, nothing is as it seems; everyone has secrets and truth is elusive. At the village school, attendance is meager and irregular. The only students who attend are those who, damaged by the conflict, are incapable of working in the fields. Surrounded by poverty and the constant threat of violence, Arun's optimism is eventually depleted and frustration with educating the village's schoolchildren overwhelms him. When violence finally touches him personally, he is forced to confront basic truths about his friends, his family, his country and, most wrenchingly, himself.