Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy's first novel in many years is an epic history of India and its recent history.  It starts around fifty years in the past and follows the story of Anjum.  Anjum is born with the organs of both sexes and after finding disapproval in society, moves in with a group of the Hijra, transsexuals who are in the midst of gender reassignment.  She leaves this group after many years and moves to a graveyard where she collects a group of others whom society would call misfits.

The story then leaps ahead to the conflict in Kashmir and the struggle between India to subdue it into a peaceful territory and the freedom fighters or terrorists depending on viewpoint, who continue the struggle.   The story is viewed though the life of Tilo and the men who loved her.  There is Naga, the journalist who marries Tilo after rescuing her from an interrogation center.  The is the Indian bureaucrat known as Garson Hobart who is influential enough that when he sends Naga to free Tilo his power insures it is done.  Then there is Musa, the gentle man who becomes known as a successful Kashimi terrorist after his wife and child are murdered. 

Each of the characters has a history of pain and struggle yet each finds a way to make a life and to treasure the small moments that are all one can expect to keep.  Along the way the reader is introduced to a host of other memorable characters each of whom's story is told in a way that makes their broken lives understandable.  This is a book of terror and struggle yet of hope and love also.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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