This mesmerizing novel is set in Indonesia just before the coup and massacres of 1965 where the pain, love and hopes of an intriguing cast of characters are evoked captivatingly by a gifted young Asian novelist. This is a story of those who don’t belong, don’t want to belong or think they fit but don’t. The story hops from Bali to Malaysia and Sumatra, but mostly dwells on the tropical squalor and intrigues of Jakarta as the gathering crisis lurches toward the abyss in this high-tension romantic thriller.

These days the media focuses on India’s galloping economy, but here Dalrymple leads us away from the fray with his engaging portraits of nine spiritual seekers scattered across India. The chosen nine are all pursuing the divine according to ancient traditions that remain vibrant amid the upheaval of modernization. Through their eyes, travels and experiences, we discover the juxtapositions and paradoxes that animate life in contemporary India. The story of the young Jain nun who chooses to starve herself to death will haunt you for some time.

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