A study in contrasts, this novel uses magic to illuminate poverty, violence and loss.
New City, India, contains multitudes. Journalist and novelist Jha (Fireproof, 2007, etc.) introduces the city through three main characters, Woman, Man and Child, whose disparate stories anchor the narrative as the tension between rich and poor plays out again and again. Man and his driver are stuck on the freeway as police use water cannons to disperse Old City protestors who haven’t had water or electricity for days. A “quota” medical school student sees his beloved girlfriend protesting the presence of lower castes on campus. Readers first meet Woman as she recalls the past to her grown daughter, home after a long time away. Woman draws readers in with gorgeous language: "And, thus assured, you run away, leaving a hole in the air, shimmering, through which the afternoon leaks away and evening drips in, mixes, dissolves the scents you leave behind." On the next page, the tone turns to menace as we meet Man, a wealthy loner: "He is going to kill and he is going to die. That's all we know for now, let's see what happens in between." The third character, Child, is abandoned and officially named “Orphan” by a media-savvy orphanage administrator. Each character’s story is driven forward by fear and mystery—the greatest mystery of all being how these stories and characters are connected. Ultimately, the character who links the three is named but never given much of a voice.
This novel is populated by storytellers. One by one, they tell us that nothing, even magic (a 12-foot woman who mothers mothers or a dog who transports an orphan to safety), can erase the ugly highs and lows of life in modern India.