The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeev Sahota
‘ Unputdownable’ could be the apt word to describe the book.
It is no thriller. Sunjeev Sahota’s ‘The Year of the Runaways’ is a neatly crafted work on the struggles of migrants desperate to earn a living in the hope of making it big someday in an economically struggling England.
The narrative is so well researched, intricately described and honestly portrayed that it gets difficult to find a fault with the novel. The main reason behind it is simply that it is probably so close to the near truth that it does not read like a fiction.
You meander through the heart wrenching poverty of Bihar, the caste politics of small town Punjab, the desperations of families struggling to make a living, the promise of the west as a one stop solution solve all the financial woes and most of all the heart wrenching exploitation of the immigrants, illegal or otherwise who throng Europe, particularly England in search of a better future o merely to escape the brutality of their lives in the Indian sub-continent.
Sunjeev Sahota’s characters are clear about their morals, each one of them wearing their heart over their sleeves, a martyr in the making with a never say no attitude about them. They could come across completely self centered, ambitious, vulnerable, naïve and last but not the least victims of their own circumstances.
The novel primary focus is on the struggles of immigrants particularly the ones that illegally immigrate and constantly live with the fear of deportation. The story moves back and forth and is centered primarily around three characters Randeep, Avatar, and Tochi. Narinder the British born home schooled girl from a Sikh family caught amidst circumstances that bring her to a point where she agrees to be the Visa wife to aid one of the immigrants into a safe passage into England in exchange of money.
The story is hard hitting and heart wrenching from the beginning to the end. But it is the epilogue that is the clincher. I do not want this to be a spoiler alert … read the book in its entirety. Avoid if you are depressed and are looking for some escapism.
It is a book that will leave you in a state of melancholy mixed with the kind of bliss that you experience when you stumble upon a sincerely rendered piece of work.
Certainly my personal favorite for the Man Booker Prize 2015.