In this novel, an Indian man comes of age amid changing times.
Sunny comes from a small “evergreen village” named Manjoor, where his simple life follows the rhythms of the monsoon. Soon, however, the region’s rural delights give way to suburban sprawl, signaling the start of Sunny’s lifelong struggle against spoiled paradises, some physical, some emotional. Despite his village’s growing pains—as well as his own—Sunny finds much to appreciate about life. He has many friends, siblings who love one another, and parents that care for him, even if his father is, at times, a harsh disciplinarian. The family doesn’t have much, but they endure. Eventually, Sunny leaves home to pursue a career in social work in Ahmedabad. Though Sunny finds fulfillment from his profession, the work takes an emotional toll. He’s saddened by cultural traditions that reinforce the stigma of mental illness, particularly the way families must suffer shame when a suicide occurs. Not even marriage and children of his own can fully dispel Sunny’s persistent gloom. Eventually, he and his young family strike out on their own, hoping to find a better life. George clearly knows Indian life and social work well. The novel is full of evocative details that help bring the story to life, but unlike a traditional bildungsroman that builds chapter by chapter in a strong storyline, the connections between chapters here are episodic in nature and fail to create a symphonic whole. Readers will find themselves immersed in a particular development from Sunny’s life—say, his mother’s brush with death—only to have that thread disappear entirely from future chapters. For all George’s focus on his protagonist’s emotional life and innermost thoughts, as a character, Sunny never quite transcends the page, often feeling distant and a bit wooden.
A man’s life relayed through vignettes that stand alone better than together.