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THE YEAR OF THE RUNAWAYS

When the place you’ve left is burning and the one you’re in doesn’t want you, how do you find your way home?

The intertwined lives of four Indian immigrants in England reveal broad truths through heartbreaking details.

It seems like a common enough premise at first: several young people from struggling families flee their native country to find a better life—or better work, at least. But as Sahota (Ours Are the Streets, 2011) demonstrates in his rough-around-the-edges second novel, every immigrant story is wholly individual, no matter how familiar it feels. Weaving back and forth through chronologies and perspectives, he traces the origin stories of Randeep, Avtar, and Tochi as they make their ways from India to Sheffield, an industrial city in the north of England, in the early 2000s. Lonely Randeep must support his “visa wife,” a religious Sikh and fellow immigrant named Narinder, who sought the role out of a sense of service, leaving an arranged engagement, a violent brother, and a disappointed father behind. When Randeep’s sense of obligation toward her turns to affection, Narinder folds further inward until she meets fiery Tochi, who belongs to the destitute Dalit (“untouchable”) caste. He squats in the apartment below hers, and they gradually connect through their shared alienation from the parts they’re supposed to be playing—but it’s an impossible pairing, of course. Piety and fury don’t get happy endings. Neither does delicate Avtar, who winds up working a series of filthy, treacherous jobs despite his student visa. England is rarely kind to this quartet, thwarting their efforts at betterment with police raids, poverty, and other trials. Sahota peppers these scenes with a riot of minor characters that can be overwhelming, but his observations of our broken social system are razor-sharp.<

When the place you’ve left is burning and the one you’re in doesn’t want you, how do you find your way home?

Pub Date: March 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94610-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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