In his debut novel, Dinh explores the complicated world of aid workers and the many ways people can be drawn to work that is dangerous, demanding, and often thankless.
When an earthquake destroys the city of Bhuj, India, the international aid community begins convening immediately. Among the many people trying to bring assistance to the region are four men with varying degrees of connection to each other: Dev is a Delhi-based doctor who heads an HIV clinic; Ted is his one-time lover who now works with USAID. Piotr, Ted's colleague, is a seasoned aid worker who does his best to maintain a distance between himself and his surroundings. Andy is an untested British firefighter anxious to do his part and prove his muster. As the situation grows more and more chaotic and resources become scarce, all four men grapple with their pasts, the things that made them decide to pursue careers in disaster relief, and the true impact they are having on the people around them. The author deftly communicates the urgency facing the teams on the ground but also moves seamlessly between the past and present, illuminating the many desires and regrets pulling each character in varied directions. This novel doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable truths about the nature of aid work or the flaws in those we often see as heroes. Shocking, engaging, and moving, this novel embraces humanity in all its messy, thrilling complexity.
A strong debut from an author capable of immersing the reader in a foreign world.