Latitudes of Longing

One World. May 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780593132555. $27. F
DEBUT “I am not well read, nor am I a craftswoman of language,” the Mumbai-based journalist/educator Swarup insists in an author’s note to her editor. And yet her debut novel will certainly be one of the most wondrous literary achievements to hit the shelves this year. A multigenerational epic intertwined with spellbinding myths, Swarup’s is a many-layered narrative that begins and (almost) ends with Girija Prasad, “the man who studied trees,” who has just married “the woman who spoke to them” at story’s opening and who meets his geologist grandson by the closing pages. In between, he becomes a father twice, then a widower, dies too young, and yet his departure is long delayed. Beyond limited corporeal forms, love haunts, triumphs, survives—in a young abused wife who kills her husband in order to protect their unborn child (“His father wasn’t a monster. Nor is she a murderer”); in an innocent student more philosopher than fighter brutalized by injustice; and in a loyal friend who’s part savior, part storyteller. All these and more will be linked across borders and barriers, from sinking islands to glacial mountaintops.
VERDICT Extraordinarily affecting, this work should be a priority acquisition for all libraries with astute, globally hungry patrons.

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