The Illicit Happiness of Other People

Manu Joseph, Author
Manu Joseph. Norton, $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-33862-1
Reviewed on: 10/01/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
Indian author Joseph’s smart new novel, after 2010’s PEN/Open Book Award–winning Serious Men, is laced with black humor and keen observations on human nature. Three years after 17-year-old Unni Chacko, a budding cartoonist, plunged from his third-floor terrace, his father, Ousep, resumes his obsessive search for the truth behind his death, using his son’s funny and contemplative comics as guides in his quest through modern-day India. Ousep, a journalist, spends his days interrogating those who knew Unni, and his nights drunkenly waking his neighbors upon his return home. His wife, Mariamma, tries to protect their younger son, Thoma, from Ousep’s harmless but humiliating alcoholic rages, while Thoma struggles to impress the beautiful Mythili, one of the brothers’ closest friends. What Ousep discovers, after interviewing Unni’s friends, fellow artists, teachers, and anyone else he can track down, is a deeply thoughtful teenager burdened by weighty existential quandaries. Joseph’s rich characters intersect in moments of tenderness, yet each continues along a path that gracefully highlights the titular Other and the emotional divides that separate individuals. Lucky for us, Joseph’s empathic prose deftly bridges those gaps. Agent: Isobel Dixon, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. (Jan.)
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