From internationally acclaimed New Face of Fiction author Padma Viswanathan, a stunning new work set among families of those who lost loved ones in the 1985 Air India bombing, registering the unexpected reverberations of this tragedy in the lives of its survivors. A book of post-9/11 life, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao demonstrates that violent politics are all-too-often homegrown in North America but ignored at our peril.
In 2004, almost 20 years after the fatal bombing of Air India Flight 182 from Vancouver, two suspects are — finally — on trial for the crime. Ashwin Rao, an Indian psychologist trained in North America, comes back to do a “study of comparative grief,” interviewing people who lost loved one in the attack. What he neglects to mention is that he, too, had family members who died on the plane. Then, to his delight and fear, he becomes embroiled in the lives of one family that remains unable to escape the undertow of the tragedy. As Ashwin finds himself less and less capable of providing the objective advice this particular family seeks, his surprising emotional connection to them pushes him to face his own losses. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao imagines the lasting emotional and political consequences of a real-life act of terror, confronting what we might learn to live with and what we can live without.
Through characters hewn with great empathy and grace, writing whose brilliance illuminates every page, and a story that constantly compels and surprises, Padma Viswanathan explores hugely ambitious questions of loss, identity and faith.
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is an intrepid novel, its sadness leavened by a wry humour.
Viswanathan shows, for family members and close friends of victims, there is no forgetting the consequences of a single moment. The violent death of loved ones becomes a life sentence.
Viswanathan’s powerful novel weaves around and through the true story of the 1985 Air India bombing by Sikh terrorists that left 329 dead, primarily Canadian citizens of Indian origin . . . Employing shifting narrative voices and time periods, Viswanathan’s intricate and empathetic tale deftly reveals the cultural rifts of immigration, post-9/11 politics, and conflicts of faith exposed by this real-world tragedy and its lasting reverberations.
This is an accomplished novel.
There is no doubt that Viswanathan can write, and write well . . . a rich and absorbing novel.