Silent Winds, Dry Seas

Vinod Busjeet. Doubleday, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-54702-4

Set primarily on the island nation of Mauritius, Busjeet’s inventive debut ping-pongs through time, combining poetic passages with linked tales to tell a story of family, politics, and yearning. When Vishnu Bhushan returns home from America to see his dying father after three decades away, his mother recalls her rocky first years of marriage, an anecdote that propels Vishnu to remember his own adolescence and young adulthood in the 1950s and ’60s, some of which was spent living with his uncle Ram, who urged him to forge a future away from the island. But after Ram dies, Vishnu’s father feuds with Ram’s wife Ranee over inherited land, which threatens family unity and causes Vishnu to have a nervous breakdown. After recovering, Vishnu has his first sexual experience and lands a teaching job, yet when the time comes to travel for college, Vishnu is stymied by Mauritius’s corrupt government, which awards scholarships to less deserving yet richer students, leading Vishnu and his father to embark on a hydra-headed attempt to plead his case. Throughout, Busjeet consistently dazzles with Vishnu’s narration, conveying the character’s developing maturity, creativity—several poems by the narrator cover his early years—and deep feeling for people even tangentially in his orbit. This showcases a remarkable and confident writer. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Aug.)