The Sudden Disappearance of Seetha
By Andrea Gunraj
(Vintage Canada, Paperback, 9780307396983, 336pp.)
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Neela Keetham and her brother Navi yearn to escape their hometown of Marasaw. Living with their grandmother after their mother had left years before to find work abroad, they struggle against the poverty and limited opportunities available in Marasaw. Navi hopes to prosper from his talent as a math prodigy, while Neela constantly battles to find some talent to rival her brother’s.
Despite the support of their grandmother and friends, both Navi and Neela find that escaping their circumstances, much less their past, is no easy task. The siblings make their separate ways out of Marasaw, but each must make sacrifices and damaging compromises along the way. They also learn dark and dangerous truths about each other, driving them apart in fear and anger.
As Navi and Neela work tirelessly to create new lives for themselves, the outside world, far from being a paradise, is revealed as more punishing and unfair than the world they left behind. Navi wins a prestigious government internship, but his success ironically snuffs out the opportunity for a lasting, loving relationship with a fellow intern. On the strength of rumours and the word of her boyfriend Jaroon, Neela daringly makes her way to a resort town hidden in the rainforest to work as a teacher, only to find that this “Eden,” and Jaroon, are not what they seem.
Chastened and wiser for their experiences, Neela and then Navi are both forced by circumstances to return home. The disappearance of Neela’s daughter, Seetha, leads them back to each other and into the complex and mysterious bonds of family. To save Seetha, Neela and Navi must attempt to heal their damaged relationship and along the way they discover that in the cruel and imperfect world in which they live, hope may still prevail.
Andrea Gunraj is a community outreach worker for METRAC (www.metrac.org), which promotes the rights of women and children to live free from violence and the threat of violence. Her parents immigrated from Guyana, a region whose culture and politics have infused Gunraj’s writing. She and her husband live in Toronto.
"The Sudden Disappearance of Seetha announces the arrival of a wonderful storyteller. The dynamics of the relationship between Navi and Neela, a brother and a sister, and how their individual lives play out show that fate is unalterable depending on one’s social standing in life. Andrea Gunraj has written a book that you won’t be able to put down — a thrilling and excellent read."
—Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author of The Story of a Widow
“This is certainly a novel to relish, and I’m sure — I hope — we will see much more of Gunraj in the future.”
— The Globe and Mail