In 1898, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor for the British on the East African Railway. Far from home, Pirbhai commits a brutal act in the name of survival that will haunt him and his family for years to come. So begins Janika Oza's epic, where the embers of this desperate act are fanned into flame over four generations, four continents, throughout the twentieth century.
Remarkable ... An epic novel ... Tender humanity emanates during these moments of colossal cruelty ... This engaging novel is interrupted by only a few missteps ... The plot turns at the novel’s end seem convenient; the story folds too neatly into the overarching metaphor of the book ... Demand — and spirit — for bolder storytelling that transcends borders and identities certainly can be found in Oza’s generous novel. The author opens things up for her readers.
This striking epic combines powerful characters of different generations, compelling storytelling, dramatic settings and conflicts, and thoughtful explorations of displacement and belonging, family ties, citizenship, loyalty, loss, and resilience.
Artfully juggling the perspectives of 10 characters over the span of nearly a century, Oza follows the members of an ordinary family from India to Africa to Canada as they struggle to maintain their cultural traditions and solidarity amid an often hostile environment and changing social norms ... An ambitious family drama skillfully explores the bonds of kinship and the yearning for peace and security.