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We of the Forsaken World
Kiran Bhat, author
In a distant corner of the globe, a man journeys to the birthplace of his mother, a tourist town destroyed by an industrial spill. In a nameless remote tribe, the chief’s second son is born, creating a scramble for succession as their jungles are being destroyed by loggers. In one of the world’s sprawling metropolises, a homeless one-armed woman sets out to take revenge upon the men who trafficked her. And, in a small village of shanty shacks connected only by a mud-and- concrete road, a milkmaid watches the girls she calls friends destroy her reputation. we of the forsaken world…, soon to be published by Iguana Books on January 22nd, 2020, is structured as a linguistic chain comprising the accounts of 16 people, connected along subtle lines, who indirectly witness these four narratively and geographically diverse central storylines. The story flows and recombines like digital connectivity, throwing into question pre-21st century assumptions about narrative logic and, I hope, embodying the way in which modern communication unites this planet every second, everywhere.
Bhat (Early Stories) weaves together four poignant tales of lives on the precipice of disaster in this complex collection. A journalist travels to his mother’s hometown to investigate the long-term effects of a disastrous chemical spill. An uncontacted Amazonian tribe faces a succession dilemma as loggers invade their lands. A woman in an impoverished metropolis hunts sexual predators and misogynists in the alleys around the plaza. In a village where technology only recently gained a foothold, an orphaned milkmaid is abandoned by her fiancé after vicious rumors ruin her reputation. Geographically disparate, these stories connect to one another along intriguing thematic threads.

Bhat takes an unusual approach to this nuanced, imaginative journey. The central characters remain nameless and somewhat voiceless throughout the narrative, never directly divulging their points of view. Their personalities and plights are instead revealed through a series of vignettes from 16 secondary characters who come into contact with them. Introductions and maps aid readers in navigating the intersections, keeping the collection grounded. The result is compelling; each vignette dips into characters’ inner lives and personal conflicts, revealing crucial information to give readers a larger story that’s both broad and intimate.

With careful depictions of differences, Bhat shows characters struggling in both obvious and subtle ways to express themselves across language, generational, and cultural barriers. A thorough exploration of inner turmoil builds a sense of intimacy with the characters. Bhat’s dextrous prose shifts to bring the distinct voices of the characters to life, from the slang of teenagers in a rural village to the flowing, elegant language of a poet. Some parts beg to be read aloud. Bhat’s bittersweet plots, surprising narrative style, and graceful prose make reading this collection an immersive experience.

Takeaway: This collection’s thought-provoking plots, fluid prose, and innovative narrative style will charm readers of literary fiction.

Great for fans of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: A+
Illustrations: A
Editing: A+
Marketing copy: A