On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden.
As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return.
An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy is an expertly crafted tale of a multigenerational family, chronicling 5 decades of a Bengali family’s history, that, in addition to challenging the caste system in India, showcases love, forgiveness, and betrayal while combining the joys and sorrows of the past and present and looking forward to the future. In An Atlas of Impossible Longing, Roy masterfully details the lives of Amulya and Kananbala, husband and wife who make a change in their lives by moving from bustling Calcutta to the sleepy town of Songarh forever changing their lives. As Kananbala retreats into herself and becomes further secluded, Amulya becomes increasing obsessed with his exceptionally manicured garden. The story is told in three parts, with three generations and in the three cities of Songarh, Monoharpur and Calcutta. Beautifully complex with the nuances of a Shakespearean tragedy, Roy tells of Anulya’s and Kananbala’s adoption of Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste, of their oldest son Kamal, who helps his father at the factory making herbal potions and pills, and of Nirmal, their archaeologist son who is also a bit of a nomad. Kamal’s wife, Manjula, longs for a child yet comes across as the least sympathetic character. Nirmal and his wife have a daughter, Bakul, whose primary caregiver is Meera, the household help and a distant relative to the family. The characters are realistically portrayed and flawed, making An Atlas of Impossible Longing an excellent choice to be read in discussion groups.
To learn more about Anuradha Roy please visit her blog.
I received a complimentary ARC An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy from Free Press. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.