Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar, and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.
Sweeping between India and England and between childhood and the present day, Sunjeev Sahota's generous, unforgettable novel is - as with Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance - a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
©2016 Sunjeev Sahota. Recorded by arrangement with Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random. (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"The Year of the Runaways is a brilliant and beautiful novel." (Kamila Shamsie, Guardian)
"Sunjeev Sahota is an absolutely wonderful writer. It is amazing that this book, so rich, so absorbing, so deftly executed, should be only his second. I doubt if I'll read a better novel this year." (Cressida Connolly, Spectator)
"The Year of the Runaways is no less accomplished in its lyrical prose and ability to immerse the reader in the experiences of a hidden community in Britain.... It is a testament to Sahota's accomplished characterisation that he maintains sympathy with the men even after they commit crimes and take advantage of others." (Emily Dugan, Independent on Sunday)
I didn't read it. But for me, it was a difficult book to listen to though I was interested in what Sahota had to say about a soul crushing problem. I really couldn't keep track of the characters.
I am a big fan of India, have been there, have read several novels by Indian authors, and read a lot about India, but I still found it difficult to keep track of all the characters with their unfamiliar names, nicknames, and then the complicated way the author jumped back and forth among their various stories. Lastly, there wasn't much of a story to any of it, except for the endless struggle for uneducated illegal Indian immigrants to survive (and find work) in England. There was no "bright side" to any of it for anyone. No one is happy from beginning to end. Not exactly sure what the takeaway is supposed to be.
I liked this book. It informed me of the desperate measures people looking for a better life face when fleeing their own corrupt overcrowded homelands.
This book builds empathy in the reader for people in this situation. It also subtly throws the myth of spiritual India into the spotlight leaving the reader questioning the role of religion.
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