cover image A Great Country

A Great Country

Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Mariner, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-332434-3

Gowda’s scorching latest (after The Shape of Family) chronicles an Indian American family’s complex and varied attitudes toward class and racial divides in Southern California. Ashok and Priya Shah can’t quite afford affluent Pacific Hills, Calif., but they move there anyway, determined to raise their status after their humble beginnings as immigrants in middle-class Irvine. Their middle child, Maya, readily assimilates with her wealthy classmates at the new school, but their older daughter, Deepa, refuses to benefit from the social injustice of a segregated school system and insists on staying at her overcrowded old school with her close friend Paco, whose mother is undocumented. Deepa and her parents continually clash, especially after the Shahs’ 12-year-old son, Ajay, flies his homemade drone over the airport, accidentally crashes it into the ground, and is beaten by the police and arrested as a terrorism suspect. Deepa wishes her parents would acknowledge that Ajay is a victim of the systemic racism they expected to be protected from by moving to a gated community, but they’re more worried about becoming subjects of controversy as his continued jailing fuels a media storm. Gowda presents each family member’s viewpoint thoroughly, as well as the perspectives of the cop who leads the investigation into Ajay and another who believes he should be released. Her light touch is refreshing and graced with nuance, allowing her to find the truth in a wide range of perspectives. Readers won’t want to put this down. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Mar.)