cover image You People

You People

Nikita Lalwani. McSweeney’s, $26 (230p) ISBN 978-1-9521-191-32

A London pizzeria owner helps undocumented people in the nuanced latest from Lalwani (Gifted). Nia, a Welsh-Indian 19-year-old, waits tables at Vesuvio, recently free from a childhood spent caring for her younger sister and neglectful, alcoholic, and drug-addicted mother. Shan, a Sri Lankan cook, is in debt to Vesuvio’s owner, Tuli, who set up Shan with a job and place to stay after he escaped from Sri Lanka and left his wife and child behind. Shan frequently wonders what motivated Tuli to help him, and what Tuli wants in return (“It became apparent over time that in order to borrow from this man, he was going to have to sit with him again and again, to what end?”). Meanwhile, Nia and Tuli discuss how to choose which people to help as Immigration Police scour the city. Their grasp on a sense of what’s right and wrong is further tested as Tuli and Shan get closer to locating Shan’s family in Sri Lanka through Tuli’s contacts. The descriptions of immigration issues are powerful, and so is Lalwani’s deep immersion in restaurant life: the gossip, the personalities among regulars and staff, and the surrogate family dynamics. Lalwani’s story surges with passion, intrigue, and a rigorous eye toward British immigration policy. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (May)