Wow. This is one hard book to review. Let me start off by saying Padma Viswanathan has written one of the bravest books I’ve seen in a long time with The Ever After of Ashwin Rao. Brave because it takes on one of the darker incidents in Canada’s recent past, the 1985 Air India bombing. Brave because it takes on the very perpetrators of this incident and condemns them as guilty in spite of the court findings. Brave because it (rightly) accuses Canada of seeing this as another nation’s problem. Brave because it tackles the inter-religious fighting in India and it’s connections to immigrants in Canada and around the world.
My connection to The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is different than that of most people’s and therefore my reaction may not be typical. I went to grad school in Vancouver and studied religious nationalism in India. Thus my awareness of Khalistan movement in Vancouver and abroad, Operation Blue Star, the Delhi riots and the Godhra incident is much more detailed than most. I also lived in Vancouver during the Air India trial and followed it more keenly than your average Canadian. It is for all these reasons that I see how brave the novel is.
It is difficult for me to say what others will gain from the novel. I can say that is is a very compelling story. The titular character, Ashwin, is a psychologist from Delhi who comes to Canada to study the lasting effects of terrorism on the families of victims. Through him we learn of the stories of a family living in northern British Columbia. In the unfolding we learn of love and loss, family secrets and surprising twists.
Who will like this book? Because of my background I cannot say how this book will appeal to your average reader of Can Lit. It is a very Canadian book, but a Canada that we are not always used to seeing. It reminded me of Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rao Badami. It is definitely a must read for those who are concerned about the rise of religious nationalisms all over the world. It gives these broad movements and their actions a very human face. Over all The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is a the most important book to come out of Canada in a long time.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I don’t know a lot about the incident or the background, being all the way over here on the other side of the earth, but you do make it sound intriguing – especially, as you say, with the shared worldly concerns about religious fanaticism. Thanks for the review.
I really enjoyed the book. It’s not available in the UK yet and I don’t know when it will be. It will come out in India in about a month i think. Cheers.
I might just read this though I’d come at it from completely opposite end as I know absolutely nothing of this. And I mean that literally! I went to live in Canary Islands in 84 and the years between then and 87 were like living in a bubble. I knew nothing of what was happening in the outside world including this am ashamed to say. I notice not out in UK yet but will look out for this!
Wow, I think this is the second time you’ve had a fairly personal connection to a book and I think that’s pretty awesome. I’m sure it does give you a very unique perspective on the book!
I tend to go for books I can relate to and it’s great when the connection is as powerful as it was with this one.
I agree with you — though I have much less knowledge of the background of this story than you do, even as another Canadian — I have just begun it and it is a powerful read.
I’m glad to hear that you are finding it powerful as well.
We just got this one in as well — sounds like we need to strap in for this read! But it looks so intriguing, it’ll be one that I can’t wait to get to…hopefully soon.
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