Desai's second novel takes place in India and New York during the 1980s. The book's central character, Jemubhai Patel, is a retired judge, who lives with his teenage granddaughter, Sai, in Kalimpong, a small town near the Himalayas. Their peaceful world is rocked by the Nepalese revolution, which brings violence and fear to their village. The revolution creates extra problems for Sai, as she and her tutor, a young Nepalese man named Gyan, have become increasingly attracted to one another and must now draw apart. Meanwhile, in New York, a young Indian man named Biju struggles to survive. Biju, whose mother works for Jemubhai, endures a variety of grueling, minimum-wage jobs while concealing the fact that he is an illegal alien. The novel moves back and forth between New York and Kalimpong, providing different perspectives on the Indian experience along the way. The clash between tradition and modernity leads to trouble for Sai and her father, and when Gyan becomes involved in the political upheaval, their lives are changed forever. Desai writes with assurance and lyricism about life in India, and her insights into how South Asia has been affected by America are fascinating and timely. This is an impressive, original novel from a welcome new voice in Indian fiction.
A reading group guide is included in the book.