cover image Latitudes of Longing

Latitudes of Longing

Shubhangi Swarup. One World, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-13255-5

Swarup debuts with an inventive novel in stories that features a multigenerational cast in search of love and worldly purpose. In the opening story, “Islands,” it’s 1948 and Girija Varma, India’s first head of the National Forestry Service, lives on the Andaman Islands with his clairvoyant wife, Chanda Devi, who speaks with the local ghosts as she and Girija start a family and take in a young woman, Mary, to act as nanny. “Faultline” sees Mary’s return to the mainland years later after learning that her long-abandoned son, Plato, has been imprisoned. Plato’s drug-smuggling friend Thapa leads the third story, “Valley,” and takes to a young woman, Bebo, who works at a dance club in early ’90s Burma. Swarup concludes with “Snow Desert,” in which a village elder falls in love with an outsider and assists a scientist in understanding the nature of earthquakes. By integrating magical elements—talking glaciers and yetis appear—Swarup eschews conventional love stories to focus instead on many forms of desire, while the zigzagging across time and place. This offers beautiful depictions of humanity through a successfully experimental form. (May)