Though political reformation takes center stage, discerning readers will find a rich sprinkling of passion throughout Sen’s stories, wrought through the intense but tragic love story found in “An Unfulfilled Love,” or in “My Paradise,” where Shukumar, a family’s sole survivor of a religious riot, is able to rebuild his life by adopting a deceased friend’s daughter. There are more gentle portrayals of love’s healing power as well, in the gradual reconnection between father and son in “Remembrance,” when Amar reflects on his father’s love “taking away the anger and resentment that had been buried deep in my mind all these years.” Sen also writes starkly of religion’s power and destruction, drawing parallels in “Invisible Bond” between an affluent American man dying from colon cancer and a refugee child caught in the crosshairs of Burmese religious wars.
A yearning for equality powers these fictions, as Sen examines unsettling but critical issues, including tragedies in the Indian penal system and the far-reaching effects of Britain’s historic treatment of India. The themes are moving, and they illuminate the deeper meaning behind life’s tragedies and triumphs: “Our dreams are built around life, yet we don’t consider that the web we are creating is standing on quicksand that could collapse at any time.”
Takeaway: Striking tales of contemporary conflict, celebrating hope and equality.
Comparable Titles: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck.
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