cover image Meet Us by the Roaring Sea

Meet Us by the Roaring Sea

Akil Kumarasamy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-17770-6

Kumarasamy’s dazzling if sometimes unwieldy debut novel (after the collection Half Gods) follows a young woman as she tries to unpack the past amid an unforgiving near future. Ada, 26, works as a trainer for an advanced AI model, and on the side, perhaps as a coping mechanism, she translates a manuscript written in Tamil during the 1990s, which she first encountered during her college years. The manuscript details a group of women students at a remote medical college who slowly descend into a cult of “radical compassion” while treating war refugees, inflicting as much suffering on themselves as possible in order to truly understand their patients. After the students receive televisions from the government, their philosophy becomes tested and a schism develops within the cult. Kumarasamy also gets into Ada’s interactions with Sal, an artist whose parents died in a self-driving car accident; and Rosalyn, Ada’s cousin and roommate who illegally performs memory experiments on a homeless man. While some of the thematic threads can feel underdeveloped or untethered, such as the AI subplot, Kumarasamy’s gorgeous prose and quiet meditations on memory will enthrall readers. This ambitious effort has much to offer. Agents: Bill Clegg and Chris Clemans, Clegg Agency. (Aug.)