This sprawling novel gives new, multilayered meaning to that old cliché, “It's a small world.”
Ray’s American debut is all about connections—and disconnections. As the title suggests, the concept of geographical displacement is a major motif. In 1989, shortly after Thanksgiving, an Indian-American couple, the Mitras, are found dead in their upstate New York home, murdered by an intruder. So far, the only suspect is their adult daughter, Devika. From there, the novel’s passage across time and space begins, landing first in 1840s Ireland. In the seaside village of Mullaghmore, budding Irish rebel Padraig; his mother, Maire; his best friend, Brendan; his true love, Brigid; and his teacher Mr. O’Flaherty pursue their passions, never dreaming their world is about to be upended. Padraig, through a set of circumstances which in less adept authorial hands would be nothing short of nonsensical, finds himself aboard an East India Company trading ship. While Padraig prospers in India, Maire and Brigid perish in the potato famine; Maeve, Padraig’s and Brigid’s small daughter, is taken by Brendan aboard a famine ship, which is shipwrecked off the coast of Canada. Thanks to a friendly hog, survivors Maeve and Brendan secure a home on a Vermont farm. Later, Maeve’s daughter, Bibi, is killed in the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire, and her toddler son, lost in the confusion following the fire, will be raised as an orphan, never knowing his family of origin. Meanwhile, in India, Padraig's Irish-Indian grandson, Robert Aherne, and descendants of the Mitra family, Padraig’s saviors and mentors in India, tell their intersecting tales. The scene shifts back to the United States, where drug dealer Billy, whose abusive father is Bibi’s lost son, encounters Devika. The variegated colors, tastes and textures of Ray’s narrative, as it moves through multiple points of view, lend a powerful sense of context to both the most trivial and the most tragic of human circumstances.
Ray treads the fine line between coincidence and contrivance with bravado and finesse.