By Jay Antani
Bandwagon Press, $13.15, 368 pages
In his dazzling debut novel, Jay Antani takes readers on a journey from the United States to India in the late 1980s. Told from the perspective of high school graduate Vikram Mistry, this is a fictionalized account of the authors own experiences.
After years of struggling and trying to make it in the United States, Vikram’s parents decide that it is time to move back to India and closer to the family they have been away from for so long. The move tears Vikram away from his friends and is a loss of everything he knows well. Antani’s writing evokes the pain and agony of moving to a new place. His vivid descriptions beautifully capture the surrealism of exploring a new place when one does not want to be in it and the taste and feel of pain mixed with a suppressed hope.
The novel is one of self-discovery. Vikram is constantly plastered in new places trying to develop a sense of self and capability in a country he was removed from a decade ago. His strength and endurance tie him to his new home as he gets to know people he barely remembers as visages from his childhood. In learning more about aunts, uncles and his parents, he finds the courage within himself that he needs to make his own independent choices.
Antani’s prose sweep will sweep readers off in a whirlwind of imagination – yet it is not that hard to imagine, especially if one has endured the experience of exploring a new place and yearning daily for the old. As the characters step into the story, Antani gives readers a chance to meet each of them as one would meet someone new in real life. They all appear slowly and shrouded in mystery, leaving readers with a curiosity and desire to know more.
With solid prose, beautiful scenery and brilliant characters, Antani’s first novel will give readers a heavy book-hangover at its conclusion. One can only hope a second novel is around the corner soon.
Reviewed by Nathanial Garrod