A sprawling debut novel with a romance at its heart begins in Guyana before traveling to the United States, Thailand and Canada.
In June 1975, teenage Abhi and his parents, recent immigrants to the United States, leave their home in New York City and return to Guyana for a family wedding. Abhi enjoys being an “instant celebrity” to his friends and family in the village but quickly realizes that only one person’s opinion matters; Pam, his former schoolmate, has blossomed into a gorgeous, intelligent young woman with a passion for cooking. Abhi’s parents decide to let him remain in Guyana for the summer, and he has a glorious time, falling in love with Pam all the while—but he returns to the United States without even kissing her. Twenty years pass before Abhi and Pam see each other again; the novel chronicles their respective experiences growing up, building their careers and managing their families. Abhi struggles with the realization that his father, Tulsi, is a con man, and Pam makes the difficult decision to leave her elderly parents in Guyana to study electrical engineering in Miami. Their wildly different experiences over the years encompass everything from disco to investment banking to the dot-com boom—but Abhi and Pam never forget about each other, even though circumstances attempt to keep them apart. Once they finally reconnect, will they manage to make a life together? This ambitious first novel has an overly complicated structure; most of the narrative is told through third-person descriptions of Abhi’s and Pam’s lives, but periodic italicized sections written in the second person chronicle Abhi’s life in 2004 and 2005. These sections also contain philosophical musings about new math, the meaning of existence and other grand topics; eliminating them might have tightened the story’s focus on Abhi and Pam. Persaud’s passion for travel shines through the novel, but his descriptions of exotic locations veer toward the florid; ocean waves, for example, are described as both “thunderous” and “pounding.” Pam’s character, although generally presented as smart and sensible, veers into incoherence once she leaves Guyana. At one point, she absently lets her American visa run out, and later, when Abhi loses his temper because another man shows interest in her, she expresses pleasure and says, “I love it when you own me”—an odd sentiment from a successful businesswoman.
A poignant tale of love and family trapped in a meandering narrative.