...a detailed historical account ... Reddi’s richly imagined, character-driven novel sheds light on a little-known history of Indians in the U.S. and surprisingly echoes current events. A wonderful historical saga for fans of Jane Smiley’s Some Luck.
In her promising but frustratingly uneven novel, Reddi...tips over into melodrama, dampening its impact ... It’s a well researched novel about a time and place in American history that few outside Southern California likely know about, and Reddi does a very good job evoking the physical and political landscape of the early-20th century Imperial Valley. She’s particularly sharp on the effects of California’s Alien Land Laws ... And Reddi is a talented writer with a gift for pacing ... But the story is framed awkwardly, with the first chapter taking place decades after the main story. Reddi should have let the main narrative stand alone. While Passage West is by no means fatally flawed, Reddi too often repeats herself; she is overly fond of and reliant on stock phrases ... Too much of the dialogue is clumsy and needlessly expository, suffering from Reddi’s unfortunate choice to write in dialect ... Passage West feels like a missed opportunity, a novel in need of a tighter narrative and more fleshed-out characters.
The sweeping narrative is deeply researched and offers a fascinating look at a historic era from a fresh perspective. Dense with incident and a large cast of characters, the plot bogs down from time to time, and the book’s female characters remain mostly long-suffering and one-dimensional. But the complex relationship between Ram and Karak powers the book and reflects issues still with us.