Novelist/playwright Irani (The Cripple and his Talismans, 2005) back cover sets his grim second novel, an Indian twist on Oliver Twist, in his native Bombay in 1993, just after the Hindu/Muslim riots sparked by the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Ten-year-old dreamer Chamdi 3 runs away from the orphanage that has been his only home in search of his father 44. His fate is telegraphed by his mode of transport--the back of a garbage truck 45. ""Adopted"" by street-urchins Guddi and her brother Sumdi 75-83, the innocent Chamdi is inexorably drawn into the criminal underworld of Anand Bhai 138 and ultimately forced to participate in the revenge killing of an innocent Muslim family 280-89 after the local Hindu temple is bombed 218. Somewhere along the way, Chamdi's half-hearted quest for his real family falls by the wayside, undercutting the impetus that plunged him into this nightmare realm in the first place. Irani attempts to meld the magic of Chamdi's dreams and stories with the cruelty of life among the poorest of Bombay's poor; however, the plot is thin and the main character, while decent and loyal, is powerless and frighteningly naive. The novel ends on a note of apparent hope, but it is hard to believe, under the circumstances, that Chamdi's vision of Bombay as a city of ""no sadness"" (the meaning of his made-up term ""kahunsha"") 12 is anything other than a dangerous delusion.
Reviewed on: 03/26/2007 Release date: 03/01/2007 Genre: Fiction