The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - Arundhati Roy

Staff Pick

Large in scope, vision, and heart, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Knopf, $28.95), Arundhati Roy’s second novel, unfolds in the thick of India’s ethnic, religious, and class tensions. But the politics, as you’d expect from a writer who has won as many awards for activism as for literary achievement, aren’t just background. Bhopal, Gujarat, and especially Kashmir, play major roles. In addition to the rich layering of stories within stories, the text includes newspaper accounts, witness testimony, police reports, and manifestos. Roy shows the fraught Kashmir situation from all sides, and it’s a harrowing picture of a place where “you can be killed for surviving,” and where the statue of a soldier “is a more truthful emblem of the times” when it’s been mutilated. Roy balances the unflinching look at brutality with a steadfast faith in love and a belief that people can change. Throughout the novel characters take new names, choose their genders, and build fresh lives where death had had dominion. The central figures gradually converge at the Jannat Guest House, located in a Muslim cemetery. There, “the souls of the present and the departed…mingle, like guests at the same party. It made life less definitive and death less conclusive.” Whether itemizing the hypocrisies of the global “political flea market” or seeing a released detainee as “a small, desperate, frightened figure, a traffic island on the crossroads to nowhere,” Roy’s prose is unfailingly apt and eloquent. She captures India’s—and humanity’s—beauty, misery, and everything in between.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524733155
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf - June 6th, 2017

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