cover image Q&A


Vikas Swarup, , read by Kerry Shale. . Audio Partners, $27.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57270-487-9

This production gains much from Shale's excellent and lively performance. The text could easily have been overdone but Shale makes it sincere, hilarious, heartbreaking and delightful. Ram Muhammad Thomas—a young orphan with no formal education—correctly answers all 12 questions on Who Wants to Win a Billion? and is arrested and jailed when the unscrupulous quiz-show producers, reluctant to pay out the winnings, accuse him of cheating. In order to prove his innocence, he recounts his life story in 12 interludes, each eventually explaining the extraordinary circumstances that taught him one of the answers. Ram's life, full of horrors, becomes an allegory for all the problems of the lower classes in India, and the fantastic situations that lead him to win the quiz show take on mythic proportions. Ram's appeal lies in his childlike openness and wonder, and that of the story lies in hearing a full life unwind from the tiniest of details. Each tale is peopled by memorable characters—some recurring—and Shale gives each a distinct voice. His gifted reading, full of emphasis, inflection and excitement, is a joy to listen to. Simultaneous release with the Scribner hardcover (Reviews, July 11). (Aug.)