By Kalyan Ray
Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451635997, 560pp.
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
In rural Ireland in 1843, Padraig Aherne leaves behind his best friend, Brendan, and girlfriend, Brigid, and sets off to Dublin to rally for his country's independence, unaware that Brigid is pregnant with his child. But once he reaches the big city, a dangerous mistake forces him on a ship destined for Calcutta. As the potato famine devastates their home, Brendan escapes with Padraig's young daughter across the ocean, aboard one of the infamous "coffin ships" headed for America. As two family trees expand, moving towards a disastrous convergence from opposite sides of the world, Padraig's descendants struggle to define themselves and find their places in the world. From Padraig's reckless mother, to his precocious daughter Maeve who grows up to run a farm in Vermont, to Robert, a young policeman in British-era Calcutta who grapples with his mixed-blood heritage as an Anglo-Indian, to Billy Swint, a boy driven blind by his anger at his father, these are profoundly sympathetic women and men who transcend their eras and set up home in our hearts.
Unfurling against the fickle backdrop of history that includes terrorism on the Indian subcontinent, an East European pogrom, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City, and the terrible intimacy of a murder in a sleepy New England town, the repercussions of the lives torn apart in No Country will echo through the generations to come. This is a sprawling, ambitious, and endlessly satisfying read about love and its betrayals, hardship, family, and belonging...and how all history is ultimately deeply personal.
Alan Cheuse reviews Kalyan Ray's new novel, No Country. It's a family drama that crosses continents and time, from the U.S. to Ireland to India over 150 years. More at NPR.org
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