cover image Western Lane

Western Lane

Chetna Maroo. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-60751-7

In Maroo’s compact and powerful debut, the members of a grieving Jain family dedicate their lives to squash in late-1980s England. After Gopi, Khush, and Mona’s mother dies, their father decides to transform the family’s casual weekly games into an intense training program. Gopi, the youngest at 11, quickly becomes the best competitor of the trio, and when not at school or Gujarati class, she studies videos of matches and hones her game in the courts at an athletic center called Western Lane, eventually practicing against Ged, the white 13-year-old son of an employee there. The pair catch the eye of Maqsud, a Pakistani man who urges them to register for an upcoming tournament. Gopi steps up her training, falling for Ged in the process. Meanwhile, Mona, 15, takes on household duties, and the grieving Khush, 13, prefers to speak in their mother’s favored Gujarati. With Gopi’s fluid narration, Maroo skillfully balances the drama of Gopi’s upcoming squash tournament with the nuances of family drama, describing, for instance, how their father’s encounters with Ged’s mother differ from his “way with Ma or our aunties or any of the women we knew.” This will invigorate readers. Agent: Tracy Bohan, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)