cover image Circa


Devi Laskar. Mariner, $25.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-358-65292-2

Laskar (The Atlas of Reds and Blues) delivers a poignant coming-of-age story of a Bengali American young woman and the death of her best friend. In a suburb of Raleigh, N.C., Heera Sanyal heeds the expectations of her immigrant parents but yearns for the American lifestyle of her best friend, Marie Grimaldi, with whom she spends long gleeful hours on the phone. Heera also gets up to late-night hijinks with Marie’s older brother, Marco, such as tagging water towers with graffiti. Then, on the walk home after their school’s Halloween carnival, Marie is killed by a drunk driver. Grief-stricken Heera quits her extracurricular activities but still works on her college applications, while Marco turns to booze and girls. Further misfortune emerges as Heera’s mother is diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, causing the family to divert Heera’s college fund for medical treatments. With few choices, Heera strikes a Faustian bargain of sorts by agreeing to an arranged marriage with a 26-year-old Bengali stockbroker, which would allow her to live in New York City with his family and attend the school of her dreams. The author intertwines lyrical prose (Heera lives in her “star-spangled desires like a dream”) with lucid observations. This stands out as a fully realized study of contrasts. Agent: Reiko Davis, DeFiore and Company. (May)