Priyanka Champaneri's debut novel brings us inside India's holy city of Banaras, where the manager of a death hostel shepherds the dying who seek the release of a good death, while his own past refuses to let him go.
Brimming with characters whose lives overlap and whose stories interweave, Champaneri’s exquisite debut delves into the consequences of the past, and how stories that are told can become reality even when they contain barely a shred of truth. As Pramesh discovers, the bitterness of past wounds can bring hope for redemption and life.
Priyanka Champaneri's debut novel, goes beyond revisiting the rituals involved in such dying. The main question being explored here is: What, indeed, is a 'good death'? Is it really about liberation? Or is it simply a transformation of the body from one material form to another while the soul goes elsewhere? ... Stories are crammed within stories. Characters tell tales that are folklore, myth, reminiscences or dreams. All stories deeply alter their existence and relationships ... Champaneri's descriptive prose is precise and evocative. Aside from a few incongruous Western phrases and awkwardly translated terms, she does not exoticize or erase any relevant aspects of the sociocultural milieu. The classic cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter isn't contrived but integral to the story and its arcs ... At times, the narrative pace gallops when it should amble and vice versa as the author tries to give most of the large cast of characters meaningful arcs.
Champaneri’s Kashi is teeming and vivid, but her prose can sometimes feel overdone. The story sags in places. Most interesting are the flashbacks to Pramesh and Sagar’s childhood, but these moments often feel rushed. It’s possible that Champaneri is trying to fit in too much ... Still, the book frequently charms, and it's as full of humor, warmth, and mystery as Kashi’s own marketplace. Uneven but charming, Champaneri’s debut intrigues even as the writing occasionally sags.