A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
I received this book by entering a goodreads.com giveaway sponsored by the publisher, Ecco (HarperCollins). A galleys edition, this book is scheduled to be released June 2022, so it may be subject to revision depending on its prepublication reception.
The novel is set in a nameless South Pacific Island in the 1980s. Said island is occupied by “Nativists” and “Indians.” When a military coup occurs, putting the Nativists in power, life becomes challenging for the Indians (their ancestors plopped there several generations earlier). The natives claim that Indians have stolen all the jobs, the property that should be theirs. From the Indian perspective, they themselves have worked industriously as farmers and merchants to better their lives, and have gained a certain amount of wealth. One family is split apart, when the only daughter, Bhumi, two years into her university career on the island, must escape to the United States to begin a new life. This leaves her brother, Jaipal, and her parents behind. Their father is an alcoholic who owns his own small grocery, and their mother is a strong but quiet woman nearly worn down by her husband’s abuse. Jaipal’s life is complicated by the fact that he is gay, against which there exists an official stricture. If he is to meet anyone, he gathers with others of his ilk in “hotels” (largely abandoned one must assume) at night with no lights, only their widening irises as they become accustomed to the dark (nice metaphor). Bhumi’s life in northern California is no picnic either. She applies for asylum with the U.S. government but will hear nothing for months and months. In the meantime, to support herself as a would-be student (she audits classes) she works as a nanny for an Indian family. Even so, the woman who hires her is condescending, and the child she must care for is a brat. She ultimately leaves. To tell how the plot is resolved would be to spoil the ending, which is a realistic yet satisfying one.
Nishant Batsha’s writing is commendable, combining excellent plotting in which there is little or no coincidence; most events seem to lead by way of a natural cause and effect to the next event. His characterization is satisfying, he releasing more and more information about characters as time passes. Readers have a sense of what they look like, who they are. He tackles the subjugation of one group by another (hinting of a genocide to come if the last 50,000 Indians do not leave the island when ordered to) with sensitivity and warmth. It provides a certain resonance for our own times, consider what Russia is doing in Ukraine, and what has happened to people of color in our own country for centuries. I wish Mr. Batsha good luck with Mother Ocean Father Nation. It is a new must-read.
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