When society is intolerant of homosexuality, LGBTQ kids suffer.
Nehemiah, the protagonist of Indian writer Pariat’s debut novel, is sent far from his family home to attend college in Delhi after his best friend, Lenny, is found in bed with another boy and placed in a psychiatric ward. After an arduous two-day train trip, Nem is expected to buckle down, study hard, and follow the straight and narrow. He tries. But when he meets a charismatic art history professor from London named Nicholas Petrou, his resolve falters and the pair quickly become intellectually and physically entangled. Since Nem lives in a dorm, the relationship takes place on Nicholas’ turf. It’s no sacrifice for Nehemiah to visit Nicholas’ cabin. In fact, he loves that it’s in the woods and is filled with books and art. He’s also fascinated by the fish tank Nicholas has installed and enjoys watching the colorful creatures and dancing sea horses that swim in its waters. It’s a lovely domestic tableau, at least until Nicholas abruptly vanishes. As you’d expect, this causes Nem to experience confusion, angst, and a deep sense of mourning. What’s more, it reawakens the pain of his forced separation from Lenny. Still, time passes. Nem finishes school, gets a job as an art critic at a prestigious Indian magazine, and eventually lands a fellowship in London. While there, he gets an enigmatic message from Nicholas. Despite the temptation to ignore it—after all, a decade has passed—he takes the bait and, in short order, finds himself in contact with Myra, Nicholas’ stepsister. This leads to high, but unresolved, drama since the book’s denouement leaves virtually everything hanging.
It’s a disappointing wrap-up to an intense and well-crafted look at homophobia and human relationships.