Book Review: The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Book Review: The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

I heard an excerpt from this book on a thought-provoking public radio show - To The Best of Our Knowledge: A Borderless World, which is well worth a listen. I've been thinking about immigration a lot lately, considering the issues, the varied way people respond to them and what can be done to help people who are struggling to escape extreme poverty, violence and oppression. 

Sunjeev Sahota is a British novelist whose paternal grandparents emigrated to Britain from the Punjab in 1966. He was brought up in the British Sikh community and regularly visits extended family in India. So although The Year of the Runaways is a novel, it is grounded in the reality of what Sahota has witnessed both in India and in England.

Here's a synopsis from Goodreads:

The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.

I can't honestly say I enjoyed The Year of the Runaways or found that I found it fascinating. Those are the wrong words for an exploration of lives lived in situations ranging from unfortunate to brutal hardship where, despite people's best efforts, everything seems to go from bad to worse.

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