Siddharth Arora lives an ordinary life in the New England suburb of South Haven, but his childhood comes to a grinding halt when his mother dies in a car accident. Siddharth soon gravitates toward a group of adolescent bullies, drinking and smoking instead of drawing and swimming. He takes great pains to care for his depressive father, Mohan Lal, an immigrant who finds solace in the hateful Hindu fundamentalism of his homeland and cheers on Indian fanatics who murder innocent Muslims.
When a new woman enters their lives, Siddharth and his father have a chance at a fresh start. They form a new family, hoping to leave their pain behind them.
South Haven is no simple coming-of-age tale or hero's journey, blurring the line between victim and victimizer and asking listeners to contend with the lies we tell ourselves as we grieve and survive.
Following in the tradition of narratives by Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz, Sawhney draws upon the measured lyricism of postcolonial writers like Michael Ondaatje but brings to his subjects distinctly American irreverence and humor.
"A vivid portrait of second-generation immigrants living in suburban New England.... Sawhney is pitch-perfect when describing the uneasy relationship between adolescents and their parents.... There is much emotional truth in the author's sensitive portrayal of the despair and rage that can simmer away throughout adolescence.... Hirsh Sawhney's quietly devastating conclusion is both unexpected and deeply moving." (Times Literary Supplement)
"[T]his luminous debut...captures precisely the heartache of growing up." (Library Journal)
"A powerful story...a universal look at the complexity of how people wrestle with guilt and blame amid tragic loss." (New Haven Independent)
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