Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize: An “extraordinary” novel “lit by a moral intelligence at once fierce and tender” (The New York Times Book Review).
In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, an embittered old judge wants only to retire in peace. But his life is upended when his sixteen-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s chatty cook watches over the girl, but his thoughts are mostly with his son, Biju, hopscotching from one miserable New York restaurant job to another, trying to stay a step ahead of the INS.
When a Nepalese insurgency threatens Sai’s new-sprung romance with her tutor, the household descends into chaos. The cook witnesses India’s hierarchy being overturned and discarded. The judge revisits his past and his role in Sai and Biju’s intertwining lives. In a grasping world of colliding interests and conflicting desires, every moment holds out the possibility for hope or betrayal.
Published to extraordinary acclaim, The Inheritance of Loss heralds Kiran Desai as one of our most insightful novelists. She illuminates the pain of exile and the ambiguities of postcolonialism with a tapestry of colorful characters and “uncannily beautiful” prose (O: The Oprah Magazine).
“A book about tradition and modernity, the past and the future—and about the surprising ways both amusing and sorrowful, in which they all connect.” —The Independent
This stunning second novel from Desai (Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard) is set in mid-1980s India, on the cusp of the Nepalese movement for an independent state. Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives in Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The makeshift family's neighbors include a coterie of Anglophiles who might be savvy readers of V.S. Naipaul but who are, perhaps, less aware of how fragile their own social standing is at least until a surge of unrest disturbs the region. Jemubhai, with his hunting rifles and English biscuits, becomes an obvious target. Besides threatening their very lives, the revolution also stymies the fledgling romance between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan. The cook's son, Biju, meanwhile, lives miserably as an illegal alien in New York. All of these characters struggle with their cultural identity and the forces of modernization while trying to maintain their emotional connection to one another. In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a "better life," when one person's wealth means another's poverty.