Gun Island

Farrar. Sept. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9780374167394. pap. $27. F
This latest novel from Ghosh (Flood of Fire) revolves loosely around the legend of the Bonduki Sadagar, or Gun Merchant, and his similarity to a character from Bengali folklore called Chand Sadagar. Both have encounters with Manasa Devi, the goddess of snakes, as she tries to make the Gun Merchant her devotee. The protagonist and narrator of this work is Deen Datta, a dealer of rare books and Asian antiquities, who lives in Brooklyn but spends much of his time in India. With just days remaining for a return trip to New York, Deen is unexpectedly reconnected with a distant relative and gets swept up on a journey of his own, as he is also introduced to a potential love interest, Piya, a marine biologist. Deen also reconnects with Cinta, his renowned Venetian historian friend, who has a mysterious and tragic story of her own. As adventure and additional characters come into the mix, there are startling revelations of a human trafficking network between India and Italy.
VERDICT Reality and illusion collide in this mythic, fluidly written work, which will appeal to readers who will appreciate being carried along by Ghosh’s imaginative prose and occasionally disconnected story lines.[See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]

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