The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
Shalini, a privileged 20 something living in Bangelore is mourning the loss of her mother, and coming to terms with their complicated relationship. Recently let go from her job (a fact Shalini neglects to tell her father) she reminisces to the reader about a traveling salesman that used to visit their home while her father was at work. Shalini speculates on his friendship with her mother, and begins to believe that her mother’s death is somehow related to the disappearance of this salesman. Shalini decides to go to Kashmir to try to find the salesman, at least to tell him her mother has died, and maybe also to understand their relationship. The reader meets the people Shalini encounters, both helpers and foes. Ultimately she ends up in a small mountain village where the salesman’s son lives; she stays with the son and his family and learns that they are shunned by their village because his father (the salesman) was involved in the shooting of several of their men. Shalini’s very presence, her curiosity and questions, and her persistence all force the situation.
I picked The Far Field up thinking historical fiction, a little romance maybe, a satisfying story from somewhere else…and what I read was a rich novel about the price of belonging, of speaking up, of fighting the established way of living to achieve a more equitable existence, and whether one can truly trust the seeming kindness of some of the characters. The plot builds and holds some unexpected twists for a quality read that is both thought provoking and an escape. I highly recommend giving this debut novel a read!