cover image House of Caravans

House of Caravans

Shilpi Suneja. Milkweed, $26 (328p) ISBN 978-1-63955-014-2

Suneja’s debut interrogates the corrosive legacy of colonialism by exploring fractured familial bonds following the 1947 Partition of India. The novel traverses two timelines, beginning in 2002 when Karan Khatri joins his half sister, Ila, in their childhood home in Kanpur, where their grandfather, Barre Nanu, has died. Karan and Ila are determined to find answers about their respective fathers and the rift between their mother and their granduncle, Chhote Nanu, who is bitter and aloof, nursing wounds that can be traced to 1943 Lahore. In this secondary timeline, Chhote Nanu is imprisoned for attempting to assassinate the British superintendent of police. In 1946, as India works to supplant colonial rule, Chhote Nanu is released. Suneja skillfully depicts the growing violence and religious fascism left in the wake of the British colonizers, which ultimately cost Chhote Nanu his wife and unborn child and keeps him away from his brother. In August 1947, the brothers reunite en route to newly partitioned India, but amid the challenging mass migration, their reunion is brief. Suneja weaves a tale that spans generations, centering on the trauma of the Partition and its rippling effects on a family trying to find its way back to one another. This is a promising debut. Agent: Sorche Fairbank, Fairbank Literary. (Sept.)