Brilliantly weaving together elements of the Indian immigrant experience with ideas from modern medical science, Nigam sets his second novel in a Manhattan hospital, presenting a wry, revelatory look at the effects of displacement on contemporary life. The protagonist is a talented young resident, Dr. Sunit "Sonny" Seth, who gets caught up in the strange case of an Indian politician known as the "transplanted man" because virtually every organ in his body has been replaced. As Seth battles his patient's kidney failure, his treatment is complicated by the presence of a former Indian film actor–turned–politico named Kakkar, who plots the politician's downfall. Seth's off-hours become equally turbulent when he gets involved with a libidinous British nurse named Gwen, and his calamitous hospital existence begins to overwhelm his love life. Nigam spins out subplots with reckless abandon, from the story of a sleep researcher who stumbles into a cure for insomnia that almost costs him his marriage to the evolution of a near-catatonic homeless man who inadvertently becomes a local sage on the streets of Little India. Nigam adds to the ironic, absurd humor with some elegant, graceful writing about sleep, love, sex and death, filtering much of it through the lens of medical science. This novel is broader in scope than Nigam's successful, India-based debut, The Snake Charmer. While somewhat overplotted, it establishes Nigam as a major voice in contemporary Indian-American literature, offering a combination of challenging ideas and luminous, humorous prose. (Aug.)
Forecast:Nigam's talent for humor distinguishes him from the host of excellent Indian writers competing for readers' attention. The Snake Charmer set the stage for Nigam; Transplanted Man should make his name.