16 Must-Read Books for February 2013

A novel of life during (future) wartime, a scholarly decoding of Jane Austen, historical fiction set in a Mexican border town and more captivating reads.
The City of Devi
Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

The City of Devi

400 pages; W. W. Norton
The City of Devi (W.W. Norton) starts off with a bang: "Four days before the bomb that is supposed to obliterate and kill us all, I stand in the ruins of Crawford Market, haggling with the lone remaining fruit seller over the price of the pomegranate in my hand." The setting of Manil Suri's provocative and fearless new novel is the near future in Mumbai, a city that has been decimated by ongoing war between India and Pakistan, and is now run by warring Hindu and Muslim hoodlums. Our narrator, a lovelorn statistician named Sarita, finds herself on a heroine's quest, navigating the devastated landscape in search of her missing physicist husband. Danger lurks around every corner in the form of thieves, thugs, and starry-eyed devotees of the "Devi ma," a shadowy, larger-than-life figure who promises protection, even salvation. Under threat of imminent nuclear annihilation, people have begun to flee, but Sarita remains focused on finding her husband, Karun, who has abandoned her without explanation. A mysterious young Muslim named Jaz joins in her increasingly desperate search, which leads her to the realization that her marriage was never what it seemed to be.

With comedic flashes and a plot that pulses forward, Suri's tale solidifies the reputation he earned as a master storyteller with The Death of Vishnu and The Age of Shiva. Layered with themes that draw on Hindu mythology, this new work is equal parts near-apocalyptic drama and heartfelt Bollywood-esque love story.
— Rupinder Gill

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