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The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
Literary fiction

The Far Field

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Madhuri Vijay, on your first book!

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by Madhuri Vijay

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Quick take

A privileged young woman journeys to the tumultuous region of Kashmir in search of a mysterious figure from her past.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International

    International

Synopsis

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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Far Field.
The Far Field

I

1

I am thirty years old and that is nothing.

I know what this sounds like, and I hesitate to begin with something so obvious, but let me say it anyway, at the risk of sounding naïve. And let it stand alongside this: six years ago, a man I knew vanished from his home in the mountains. He vanished in part because of me, because of certain things I said, but also things I did not have, until now, the courage to say. So, you see, there is nothing to be gained by pretending to a wisdom I do not possess. What I am, what I was, and what I have done—all of these will become clear soon enough.

This country, already ancient when I was born in 1982, has changed every instant I’ve been alive. Titanic events have ripped it apart year after year, each time rearranging it along slightly different seams and I have been touched by none of it: prime ministers assassinated, peasant-guerrillas waging war in emerald jungles, fields cracking under the iron heel of a drought, nuclear bombs cratering the wide desert floor, lethal gases blasting from pipes and into ten thousand lungs, mobs crashing against mobs and always coming away bloody. Consider this: even now, at this very moment, there are people huddled in a room somewhere, waiting to die. This is what I have told myself for the last six years, each time I have had the urge to speak. It will make no difference in the end.

But lately the urge has turned into something else, something with sharper edges, which sticks under the ribs and makes it dangerous to breathe.

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (3,310)

  • Katie L.

    Saint Charles, IL

    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. ????

  • Breann L.

    Moline, IL

    I really enjoyed this book all the way through.. the ending really took me by surprise though and I’m still not sure if it was believable. This book proved that some people may never change after all.

  • Amy C.

    Sherwood, 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!

  • Magdalena D.

    Bethesda, MD

    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

  • JerrieAnn P.

    Dublin, OH

    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.

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