Ghachar Ghochar

Indian families talk a lot. And there is much left unsaid.

The final conversation in this slim, sinewy novel left me feeling like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water. I was boiling but I didn’t remember how I got there. Shanbhag had been turning the heat up, slowly, throughout the book but it took until the end of the novel for me to realize where I was. There’s something about recent short novels like The Vegetarian and Eileen that has worked for me. I count them, and this book, among my favorite reads of the past couple of years.

For most of this book, I was thinking about globalization, class ascension, the corrupting influence of wealth, the male protagonist (who reminded me of a younger version of the father character in Akhil Sharma’s An Obedient Father). But at the end, I was jarred awake, and remembered the tyranny of the extended Indian family. A tyranny with which I am both personally and culturally familiar.

Shanbhag’s novel is making its way around the literary circles in the US, thanks to a brilliant translation and championing by an American imprint. I hope this means we get more of his work translated for an American audience. I will happily count myself among his loyal readers.