cover image Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville

Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville

Akash Kapur. Scribner, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-501-13251-3

Journalist Kapur (India Becoming) takes an enlightening look at how a well-meaning utopian community in India became complicated by reality. In a propulsive narrative, he chronicles the story of John Walker and Diane Maes, the parents of his wife, Auralice, who left their homes in the waning days of the hippie movement for South India’s idealistic “planned city” Auroville, which grew out of an ashram, where they were “joined by hundreds and then thousands of others”—including Kapur and his parents. (Kapur and Auralice met as kids and reunited years later attending college in America.) Designed to encourage “human unity,” Auroville offered nothing but harmony, until John fell mysteriously ill and died at 44, and Diane, shortly after, committed suicide. At just 14, Auralice was shipped off to New York City to live with a relative and contend with her paternal family’s resentment toward a community that left her parents dead, and may have been behind such shady occurrences as letters allegedly written by her sick father to her grandfather requesting financial help. The most captivating twist, though, is that when Kapur and Auralice decided to return to Auroville in 2004, they found “a thriving township of about three and half thousand people from fifty-nine countries.” Expect the unexpected in this riveting story. (July)