Singh’s debut novel about one woman’s search for answers to the many questions of love and life.
After time spent in Chicago “working the American ‘dream treadmill’ ”—time that included the all too painful loss of a young child—Mohini knows she’s due for a change. She completes an amicable divorce and flies across the world, where she’s talked into joining a yoga school. Unfortunately, “her feeble attempts tapered off and finally she just sat apathetic and unresponsive and after three days they let her go.” Feeling “apathetic to life,” Mohini eventually finds herself at an ashram, where her life begins to change. Along with the host, a blunt but kind sadhu, Mohini meets intriguing figures such as VJ, whose “problem or rather strength is doing what he fancies,” and Roop, who, though from a wealthy family, prefers temple life and “good talk.” With the help of Roop, Mohini slowly confronts her depression. Largely a book of ideas, Singh’s debut features plenty of expansive, free-wheeling, and in-depth conversations about a variety of topics: the afterlife, drug-resistant bacteria, Genghis Kahn, and self-aggrandizing communist didactics, “whatever that was.” The narrative’s main thrust is toward understanding the great mysteries of love and existence. The free-form, sometimes unhinged prose—“A dance is danced in Absolute Nothing. Why Not. Possibilities curl out as dimensions in absolute Nothing breaking symmetry but not viable mostly”—includes lengthy, singsong sentences disinterested in punctuation, which adds to the meditative quality. Occasional leanings toward a love story can feel clumsy—“Your words are as beautiful as you are”—and at over 600 pages, the river of the title is indeed a long one. Nevertheless, the book may encourage introspection in readers who navigate through to the end.
Vast and poetic, a dreamy novel for readers who enjoy contemplation.