A hybrid work of fiction and nonfiction, set in the 1990s, about a young Indian immigrant to the United States in search of love: across dividing lines between cultures, between sexes, and between the particular desires of one man and the women he comes to love.
...while Immigrant, Montana can be described as an academic novel, its eccentricities and erotic obsessions take it on unpredictable tangents ... Over the course of the book, Kailash muddles his way through several love affairs with women whom he portrays vividly without having much understanding of either them or himself (a neat trick on Kumar’s part). The tensions he feels between the land he left behind and the country he has adopted are considerable, too ... Immigrant, Montana is intelligent, melancholy, quirky. At a time when feelings run high over which immigrants get to call themselves American, Kailash’s idiosyncratic voice adds a welcome tonic note to the debate.
The new book falls between genres. Its aim is not to tell a story, exactly, but to create a portrait of a mind moving uneasily between a new, chosen culture and the one left behind ... In reclaiming and exaggerating the erotic conceit of Donne’s 'To His Mistress' ('O my America! my new-found-land'), Kailash is effectively insisting that the immigrant be seen in his full humanity, in all his wanting-to-get-laid-ness ... There is comedy in the older Kailash looking back, and down, on the younger Kailash; and there is tragedy, too—in his inability to say things directly, he fails to articulate his desires, or understand someone else’s ... The lyrical flights of Lerner’s 10:04 or the witty dialogues between woman and tossed coin in Heti’s Motherhood have no equivalents in Kumar’s 'in-between novel.' But, in its essayistic passages, Immigrant, Montana does channel the pleasure of the most satisfying nonfiction books, the ones in which the reader sees the old anew.
These authorial intrusions—which also include newspaper clippings, photographs, paintings, and other illustrations—upon the fictional text emphasize his immigrant’s ability to live a dual existence, to be both author and narrator, insider and outsider, actor and observer ... It’s an interesting concept, and well executed, but the novel relies too much on that tired old use of female characters whose only service is to advance the male hero’s journey. It’s yet another high-minded story about one man’s hunt for pussy cloaked in the search for love ... it’s not enough to merely perpetuate a mood of a certain point in time if those outdated attitudes are hurtful to half of humanity. It’s the 21st century, and many readers have moved on. Despite its inventive approach and poignant insights, the novel’s retro viewpoint fatefully mars this brave, fresh take on the immigrant’s story.