After a tragedy rips her family apart, a woman seeks closure in a witch-filled village in this short novel.
Debut author Kumar spins a tale of redemption and folklore. A common refrain for Rebecca, wife of Jai and mother of young Sunny, is that her husband should “be more responsible.” She notices that Sunny often comes home injured after outings with his father. On a trip to Wisconsin for their wedding anniversary, Jai’s sense of spontaneity proves disastrous: as Rebecca stands looking out at a waterfall, she sees Jai and Sunny running across a rickety bridge. Sunny falls and Jai jumps to save him, but Rebecca knows, as she stares frozen in horror, that they don’t know how to swim. Jai and Sunny drown, leaving Rebecca lost and alone. Later, she visits a fortuneteller to ask about her own fate. She’s told that if she wants to speak to the spirits of her family, she can try visiting an Indian village called Chudailpur. The fortuneteller also says that she has an acquaintance there. Rebecca sets off to India immediately and learns of a powerful witch named Savli who may be able to help her. Meanwhile, Jai toils in the afterlife; Sunny is nowhere to be found, and it becomes Jai’s mission to locate him and become a more responsible parent. The novel’s supernatural elements bring the story to life, and they’re all inventively devised. As a result, the lines between the physical world and the spiritual one blur as Rebecca and Jai confront strange forces in order to contact each other. Many of the characters, though, and particularly Rebecca and Jai, feel wooden and seem more like pawns than real people. Overall, this brief, straightforwardly written story flies by, but readers may find that the village of Chudailpur and its witches linger longer in their minds than the family at the center of the narrative.
A tale of love and loss with ample atmosphere but underdeveloped characters.