cover image The City Son

The City Son

Samrat Upadhyay. Soho, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61695-381-2

After learning that her husband—the Masterji, a tutor living and working in a nearby city—has a secret second family, Didi packs up her two young sons and meets the conflict head-on, forcing her way into Masterji’s urban home. Before long, she has staked claim and evicted the beautiful but troubled Apsara and her preteen son, Tarun. But as Apsara spirals into deep depression, Didi takes a strong interest in Tarun, who visits on weekends, and this interest turns both physical and psychological. Tarun grows into a young man, yet he cannot escape the grip of Didi, who molests him weekly, latching onto his every sexual desire and manipulating his thoughts. And as Apsara dips further into melancholy and mental distress, Didi supplants her as Tarun’s sole mother figure. Author Upadhyay (Arresting God in Kathmandu) tells his story with simple and direct prose. Though Apsara and Tarun find refuge with wealthy Mahesh Uncle, who takes them in and trains Tarun to be his business protégé, the young man cannot shake his past to fully grasp prosperity. Close third-person perspective wanders from character to character, and though the book loses some of its focus by the end (at which point it’s following the exploits of Tarun’s discarded wife), most of the multicharacter narration adds dramatic depth. (June)