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Expert Picks

A Burning Dances With Fate

June 8, 2020
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This week, Susan Choi of the New York Times reviewed Megha Majumdar’s new novel, A Burning.  For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, comes an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise–to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies–and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.

The novel revolves around three central, entangled characters. Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, but is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless post on Facebook. Then there is PT Sir, an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. And finally Lovely–an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor–has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. But what makes the book so powerful, Choi explains, is “the primary relationship, for each character, is with fate — but fate has rarely been so many-faced, so muscular, so mercurial, or so mesmerizing as it is in A Burning.”

We cannot wait to read this extraordinary debut.

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