The Association of Small Bombs is an expansive and deeply humane novel that is at once groundbreaking in empathy, dazzling in acuity, and ambitious in scope.
When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family's television at a repair shop with their friend, Mansoor Ahmed, one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb - one of the many "small" bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world - detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb.
After a brief stint at a university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven into the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.
Karan Mahajan writes brilliantly about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators, proving himself to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation.
©2016 Karan Mahajan (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
He is an excellent reader, just the right amount of personalization of the various characters, and flawless pronunciation.
For about the first half of the book it was a kind of comedy of manners for terrorists and their victims, with a lot about the foibles of the all-too-human characters. The book becomes, I would say, progressively dark as the ramifications of destructiveness are played out: parent who, having lost their children, cannot find their way back to life. Young men who experience oppression as Muslims in India, as well as other losses, who lose their way and then their lives. Others who are ruined by the brutal and capricious state. The author explores all this with great sensitivity to his characters. The author is also a fine writer, with many interesting metaphors (which I wish I had written down), but who also maintains a good pace in his story.
Things do decidedly not come right in the end, but the book is not a complete downer either. In addition to the humor of human frailty, there is the author's compassion that keeps the lights on throughout.
Absolutely. This is an amazing story that expands our understanding of the different forces at work in our world today and which influence all of our lfves.
The author explores uncharted territory in today's fiction. The story was a sensitive and bold look at the so called "terrorists" who have become the scapegoat for the social, political, and economic ills of our world.
The boy who is injured in the terrorist attack is the most accessible character in the novel.
Each character is well developed and memorable. They all stand out in their own unique statement.
This is a very honest look at many sides of a very difficult question. The book provides an in depth appreciation of a controversial subject.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
This story is actually pretty amazing if you stick with it and really listen. In it, highly empathetic, religious, virtuous characters are slowly, but surely moved toward accepting their life's work as terrorists; acting on the voices of distant leaders who command them to blow people and perhaps, even themselves to bits. Meanwhile, the reader develops a sense of respect for and empathy with these same characters; hoping beyond hope that they will not fall prey to the mindset of a victim who must seek revenge.
Most of all, this book is a demonstration of sorts in how the wrong-thinking and mis-deeds of a few affect us all; just the precise goal of terrorism. Set in modern-day India, Muslims who suffer discrimination at the hands of all other religions, find that they have little choice but to respond to their plight by hurting those who hurt them.
I like this story for the insights it provided on how easily minds can be won by the cult of terrorism. It will give you pause for sure, but I recommend it for those seeking a better understanding of what may be happening in the background as terrorists evolve and propagate.
Don Delillo’s Mao II proposes the troubling idea that terrorists have assumed the role of writers: they have become the individuals who, imagining in solitude, release their visions and reshape the world. The Association of Small Bombs answers that premise. It’s the story of two families responding to the fact of a terrorist’s bomb. They had ideas for how they wanted their lives to go. After the bomb, they find they can never fully escape its consequences.
This is a thoroughly depressing novel. The opening scene (and back cover copy) describe the explosion in which two young brothers are killed. Their friend survives, but he has to deal with injuries for the rest of his life. The parents of the children and many of the people they encounter spread a kind of contagion in the years that follow. Each tries to rebuild a life, but they find everything discolored by the fact of the violence they have endured.
Mahajan uses a striking narrative device in that the characters go their separate ways but find themselves reconnecting with one another and with the perpetrators. There is no escape. Nothing they do can undo the effects of the experience, and that leaves them perpetually diminished. It’s novelistic in the satisfying sense that we see a picture larger than anything the individual characters can see. There’s a haunting geometry to the way different people connect, yet they have no idea how their histories affect one another.
While I admire the essential premise here, I’m frustrated that we get it in total at the beginning and that nothing really alters it. Victims of violence suffer not just from their pain but from the lingering sense that some random force has changed the trajectory of their lives. They are forever marked, revealed to be cowards or ever unaware of the narrow limits of their capacity to shape their own lives. But we have that revealed in the opening pages. As Monsour staggers away from his dead friends, he already suspects everything he will ever learn.
There is, in other words, little development in the way the characters think about the world. As impressive as the novel is, it’s longer than it needs to be. Part of me wonders whether it would work as well as a short story, whether it would pack the same punch more efficiently in a smaller space.
That said, this is certainly compelling material. Even if the characters are essentially static, we get a glimpse of modern India, of a nation that seems to feel acted upon more than self-determining. Those elements, the ways in which we see tensions among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, among urban and rural, and among the wealthy and the struggling, do justify its greater length. That material seems peripheral to the central insights here – peripheral to this novel, as I feel compelled to read it, as a response to Delillo – but it makes the whole worthwhile.
This is troubling material, given to us in bleak fashion. I’d like to close my eyes to much of it, but Mahajan makes me have to look.
Why do writers feel that "good fiction" must be so bleak? This book is brilliantly narrated, but starts on a low note and continues down to the end. There are some excellent passages, but his is more math than good writing as the author tries too hard to paint a picture. The worst example was the passage about toe nails of dead skin plowing through sand. Too much. Too bleak.
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