Keya Das’s Second Act

Sopan Deb. Simon & Schuster, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982185-47-3

Deb’s charming if not always credible debut novel (after the memoir Missed Translations) charts a middle-class Bengali family’s grief and gradual recovery in a New Jersey suburb. When high school student Keya Das dies in a car accident, her mother, father and, older sister are stricken with sorrow and guilt. Keya had been estranged from her family for two months before her death, after she had come out to them about being gay, to which the family members responded less than enthusiastically. The novel begins five years after Keya’s death. Keya’s mom and dad, because of the strain of the tragedy, have divorced. Her anthropology professor dad, Shantanu, still grieving, is cleaning out the family home before moving. He discovers an unfinished play about their relationship cowritten by Keya and her girlfriend, Pamela, and shares it with his ex-wife, Chaitali, and older daughter, Mitali. Together, they decide to honor Keya by mounting a production in New Brunswick. A melodramatic subplot involving Mitali’s mildly unhinged drummer boyfriend, complete with cocaine addiction and underworld chicanery, threatens to derail the novel, but Deb packs in plenty of well-observed domestic details. Though it’s mixed bag, Deb knows how to craft a family narrative. Agent: David Larabell, CAA. (July)
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