Picks and Pans Review: The Inheritance of Loss

UPDATED 01/30/2006 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/30/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

By Kiran Desai

Sai, the orphaned heroine of this confident novel, has been living quietly with her grandfather, an elderly judge, in the shadow of the Himalayas, in northeastern India. But their tranquility is threatened by growing political unrest, by Sai's unsettling romance with her Nepali mathematics tutor and by the guerrilla insurgents who have been sneaking across the border from Nepal and who steal the judge's guns. Meanwhile, continents and oceans away, the son of the judge's cook ekes out a meager (and harrowing) living at a succession of restaurants in New York, where his lack of a green card allows his landlord and his employers to exploit him. At moments the profusion of characters, flashbacks, subplots and important themes threatens to burst the seams of the book, but Desai's assurance and energy keep the plot on track and bring her ambitious tale to a fittingly strong conclusion.

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