cover image Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers

Sanjena Sathian. Penguin Press, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-984882-03-5

Sathian’s dazzling debut centers on the Indian American community of Hammond Creek, Ga., where the high-achieving children of immigrants compete for top grades and pageant titles. In 2006, 15-year-old Neil Narayan is part of the debate team at school, though he has always been unremarkable compared to his Duke-bound older sister and his best friend, Anita Dayal. But things change when Neil discovers the secret behind Anita’s triumphs: a spellbinding concoction made from gold, which Anita’s mother, Anjali, brews using jewelry swiped from their more successful neighbors’ homes. After Neil drinks the potion, he becomes smarter and sharper, but his newfound ambition soon leads to a tragic event that forever changes the lives of Hammond Creek’s residents. A decade later, an aimless Neil—now a struggling history PhD candidate at Berkeley—is shocked when Anita reappears with a plan that will once again test just how far he is willing to go to create the life he desires. While the stakes feel a bit lower as the final ploy plays out, the sharp characterizations bring humor and contemplation in equal measure, touching on the pressures Neil and Anita face to produce a legacy that honors their parents’ sacrifices. Sathian’s bildungsroman isn’t one to miss. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Apr.)