cover image Glorious Boy

Glorious Boy

Aimee Liu. Red Hen, $18.95 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-1-59709-889-2

Liu’s tense, evocative WWII family drama (after Flash House) explores the wartime turmoil for British colonials and indigenous people on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. In 1936, Shep Durant, a British physician, and his American wife, Claire, a budding anthropologist, settle in the capital city of Port Blair, where Shep works as a civil surgeon. Claire, meanwhile, studies the islands’ indigenous peoples and takes an interest in Naila, the precocious eight-year-old daughter of her servants. After the Durants’s son, Ty, is born in 1937, they hire Naila as Ty’s nanny. Naila and Ty form a close bond that helps Ty communicate. At four, he remains mute, but Naila can intuit his thoughts. As Japanese troops advance on the Andamans in early 1942, British residents are ordered to evacuate, and Claire is shattered to learn that Naila, because she’s indigenous, is barred from accompanying them. Liu ratchets up the tension that culminates in Claire’s risky return to the islands in February 1943. With nuanced descriptions of diverse characters, and a wrenching portrait of the well-meaning Durants’ limited power, Liu upends the clichés of the white savior narrative. This sharp take on a lesser-known part of WWII history is worth a look. Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell. (May)