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The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay.

October 19, 2018

The Far FieldThe Far Field, by  Madhuri Vijay.  Grove Press.

FORTHCOMING: January 15, 2019.

5 stars

A big, powerful novel about a well-intentioned woman growing up in a confusing family in Bangalore, India, and, as an adult, wandering naively into Kashmir where she does not understand what is going on around her or the affects of what she says and does.

Madhuri Vijay was born in Bangalore and later came to the United States.  She has lived in Kashmir and studied in the Iowa Writers Workshop.  The Far Field is her first novel.

Shalini, the narrator of Vijay’s novel, writes a searching account of who she is and what she has done. She knows that “the story or confession or whatever it turns out to be” will “too late.” Yet hers is a story she needs to tell.  Part of that story is about her parents, especially her mother, a strong erratic woman whom Shalini feared and protected.  Interwoven with the mother-daughter narrative is Shalini’s description of the journey she made in her twenties after her mother’s death.  Feeling restless and disconnected, she goes to violence-torn Kashmir looking for a man who had occasionally visited her mother. A Hindu, Shalini is graciously received in Muslim families whom she comes to love so much that she considers staying and teaching in the local school.  Slowly she becomes aware of local secrets and tension just under the surface.  Old wounds have not healed.  The problems are not simply Muslim versus Hindu but involved complicated feelings of guilt for actions taken.

The Far Field is a finely written book with powerful descriptions of places and people. By telling the story of a particular locale, Vijay pushes us to face the larger question of whether or not personal actions matter, or are they erased by larger cultural forces beyond our control.  She provides readers with philosophical depth while never slowing down the ongoing pressure of events.

This is a book for all of us who have ever tried to help those whose lives we fail to understand.  I recommend it enthusiastically.  Read this book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2018 6:22 pm

    This sounds interesting. I don’t think I’ve come across a book set amid the Kashmiri conflict before.

    • October 20, 2018 12:35 pm

      I don’t remember another either, but there are others that also look at war-torn regions where who is an enemy and who is a friend is never clear. I think that is an important theme in the world today. Vijay handle that well.

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