A People's History of Heaven centers on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support.
The novel centers on lives defined by femaleness and the ways individuals can find or break themselves against the locks that designation provides ... Nonetheless, they fight for futures and everyday adventures. Spending time with this fearsome five is also just plain fun ... Slum life is never romanticized. The narrator, an unnamed member of the girls’ inner circle, delivers enough cynical wisdom and pithy commentary to show just how wise these girls are to their plight without dismissing how insidious cultural messages are ... forefronts human dignity and the intelligence it takes to survive at the intersection of so much society uses to set people apart, while also making it clear that, 'in Heaven, anger is not about any one person. It’s about the whole world.'
[The book] starts a little heavy-handed ... But as the book progresses, the metaphors calm down and Subramanian finds her footing, the language taking on a musicality that is in sharp contrast to the bleak setting ... Parts of this novel read like independent vignettes, almost poetry ... At first it feels as though we’ve read this tale before: one in which girls are hated from the minute they’re conceived, women are valued only for their wombs, men are drunk and philandering, sadness piled on top of depression sitting atop cruelty. But then Subramanian surprises us. Moments of genuine joy (though I wish a character didn’t actually have to be named Joy) burst through ... A few elements are glossed over too lightly, as if perhaps Subramanian is afraid of the current or future sociopolitical climate in India ... Despite its uplifting-enough ending, though, A People’s History of Heaven feels scattered, new characters being introduced here and there to help tie up loose threads ... This is a strong debut by Subramanian. In the future, she might trust her readers a bit more, and allow herself the freedom to reveal a world of her creation in which not everything needs to represent something else.
The power of these fierce young women shines in spite of their circumstances, and they prove just how beautiful and influential a strong, unconditionally accepting community is. Subramanian is a remarkable writer whose vibrant words carry a lot of heart. This inspiring novel is sure to draw in readers with its lyrical prose and endearing characters.