A privileged young woman journeys to the tumultuous region of Kashmir in search of a mysterious figure from her past.
Good to know
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
When you work at BOTM, you read ... a lot of books. So many that at times I’m not even sure which ones I’ve got in my bag. So when I grabbed The Far Field as an in-case-I-run-out-of-things-to-read-this-weekend, it was a rare moment of serendipity; I had no idea I was packing a book so wonderful that it would become my favorite read of 2018.
The Far Field follows Shalini, a young, fairly well-off Indian woman, who travels to the politically fraught region of Kashmir in a bid for closure after the death of her mother—a fearless, hot-tempered woman to whom Shalini was loyal. Instead, she finds herself swept into the lives of a family of generous people who offer her shelter and support, even as violence upends their lives. But the closer Shalini becomes to the villagers she meets, the more her presence threatens their safety.
You know that feeling when a book is so good you forget you have a body that needs to eat, sleep, and move around? Yeah, that’s what The Far Field did for me. I was transported by Shalini’s story—her heartbreaking relationship with her mother, her search for a life of meaning, the often infuriating choices she makes—and by the stories of the Kashmiri people living under constant scrutiny by police. The novel is both richly drawn and easily digestible (think Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko), and it gave me book hangover for days. I’m thrilled to recommend this moving debut to the BOTM community, and I cannot wait to see what Madhuri Vijay writes next.
In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir's politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.
With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.
Read a sample →
This was such a compelling and gorgeous read. The way she painted the scenes with her words was perfect. I’ve been a Steinbeck fan for a while, and her writing reminds me of his in a East of Eden. ????
North Little Rock, AR
Vijay’s writing was incredible. I loved all her characters and how different and complicated they were. The topic of religious tension in India was enlightening and enthralling. I want more from her!
I can't decide if I wasn't happy with - or just wasn't ready for - the end. Either way, I was transported to a place for which I had no frame of reference in a way I haven't been for a long time. Love
Beautifully written. It invites the reader to constantly explore and question the narrator's and other characters' purposes and motivations. The book packs in a lot to think about after the last page.
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book at first, but the characters really start to grow on you as the story develops. The novel gives you good insights into the political struggles of Kashmir.
North Providence, RI
Despite having a largely unlikeable main character and an infuriatingly unsatisfying ending, this book was beautifully written. And by not bending to a happy ending the book was more thought provoking
This story captured the complexity of offering and accepting help. The main character is so beautifully flawed and I could not stop thinking about the (real-life) issues she & other characters faced.
I loved the writing style of this book. It bounces you back and forth with the author from chidhood memories of difficult choices of a parent.Only a rushed ending disappoints the orherwise great read.
Los Angeles, CA
Beautiful assessment of how what we try to do right can, and often does, go wrong. I had the unique pleasure of listening to the author read from, and discuss, her book. One of my favorite reads-2019
I have personally read very few books that leave you feeling the very real and raw emotions of this beauty. Plenty of unexpected turns accompanied by real emotions often unaddressed in such a real way
AMAZING BOOK. I was sad to have finished it. I was overly excited in some parts and would have to stop reading. This is definitely a must read!! I’m so happy I went with this one for my first book!
This book was soul-filling. It takes readers on a journey through time and unreliable memories to find answers to the toughest questions. It left me with the biggest book hangover--but in the best way
New Paltz, NY
This book felt a little slow at first, but all at once I was totally immersed! Beautiful story of grief - and the perspective of the conflict in Kashmi from Kashmiri characters was super interesting!
Cleveland Heights, OH
Vijay captivated me through characterization at the start and her truth in characterization devastated me in the end. How often do we cause more harm than good and find ourselves powerless to heal it?
San Ramon, CA
Pros: Setting was gorgeous, writing was amazing, side characters were more interesting and well developed than MC. Cons: MC is can be unbearably stupid, and book could be slow and meandering at times
Turlock , CA
I LOVED this book! The insights into the politics of a very different world from my own were tremendous. I spent days thinking about the ending after I was done reading. You don't want to miss this
A hauntingly beautiful & heartbreaking story written in lush, immersive prose. A poignant & prudent portrait of privilege, politics, & ugly human truths. This book will stay with me for a long time.
The exquisite debut: THE FAR FIELD is a brilliant literary novel. I already know it will be a favorite of mine for this year. It's set in Bangalore and Kashmir, both provinces in India. I LOVED IT!!
Every time I sat down to read this book, I really was whisked away to mountains in Kashmir. The heartbreak, betrayal, and the growth connected with Shalini's experiences remind everyone we are human.
It does get a little slow in the middle, but this coming-of-age story is about finding yourself while trying to uncover your past (or your dead mother's past). Unique Kashmir setting was a big plus.