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HOUSE BOY by Lorenzo DeStefano


by Lorenzo DeStefano

Pub Date: June 7th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63988-243-4
Publisher: Atmosphere Press

A young Indian man sets out to support his impoverished family and winds up in a human trafficking ring.

Author, producer, and playwright DeStefano’s debut centers around the life of 20-something Vijay Pallan, born poor in the “solarized and crude topography” of Chettipattu village in southern India. Vijay internalizes his family’s strife and, weary of his father’s belief that “this is how life is when you have nothing,” ventures out into the Chennai capital planning to improve his family’s conditions. Despite Vijay’s steely determination, work doesn’t come easy. Worse, he is attacked by a vicious animal in a city park. But he’s rescued by a local; Santhana offers him food and shelter and boasts about his work with an employment agency that hires “domestics” for Indian families in Britain. Santhana’s evasive, fast-talking boss, Narahari, promises the young man top living conditions, opportunities for “foreign travel,” and a generous hiring bonus. Split into two very different sections, the novel’s first half paints a very realistic, vibrant portrait of poor Indian families and their struggle to thrive amid a violent, discriminatory caste system. In the novel’s second half, vulnerable Vijay is whisked off to North London and immediately enslaved as the unpaid house boy for a family wickedly skilled in physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and torment of servants. Vijay must become a savage outlaw in a vicious whirlwind of murder and retribution. Though the novel is often intense and graphically violent, DeStefano tempers his plot with Vijay’s worldview and atmospheric portrayals of India and England. And Vijay’s traumatic experiences transcend fiction and read like an authentic, contemporary depiction of the effects of the caste system and human trafficking. In his acknowledgements, DeStefano thanks an unnamed contributor “who actually lived this story.”

Evocative imagery, sociopolitical relevance, and a compelling storyline.