Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Association of Small Bombs

In the quest to get through 12 books in 2017 (this is number 11, finished just before Christmas) I read The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan.

This book with it's setting predominantly in Delhi, India. It starts in 1996 with a marketplace bombing and the death of two young brothers of a Hindu family. The story from there traces the impact and years that follow for various people involved in this moment.

Unlike some other stories that retell the same story from the perspective of different individuals, Mahajan uses a powerful narrative to continually drive this story forward in time while shifting perspectives and writing in a powerful third person omniscient voice. Mahajan seamlessly shifts from the thoughts of one character to the thoughts of another, passing through memories, dreams, aspirations, and thoughts. In this way the writing is strong and powerful.

Equally strong to the writing is the the actual plot, characters and messages. The way the story unfolds with these characters is very believable and while there are some lighter moments mixed with heavier themes everyone seems real -- this is not an allegorical tale with abstractions. While there are Muslims, Hindus, activists and terrorist each person is a true character that is complex and not included to represent an idea. Mahajan gives the characters in this book not just a chance to develop and evolve but to change multiple times, revisiting who they are and there experiences.

In many ways this book is a powerful story that I suspect will shape my own thoughts as I consider the people in news stories of similar bombings or other acts of terror. The story powerfully puts a human face and time into an equation of the news cycle that often moves on quickly. 

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