Longlisted | Book Awards 2021 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
Loya is twenty-five: solitary, sincere, with restless stirrings in her heart. In an uncharacteristic move, she sets off on an unexpected journey, away from her mother, Rukmini, and her home in Bengaluru, to distant, misty Assam. She comes looking for her beloved Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, but also seeks someone else-her grandfather, Torun Ram Goswami, someone she has never met before. She arrives at the Yellow House on the banks of the Brahmaputra, where Torun lives, not knowing that her life is about to change. Twenty-five years ago, Rukmini had been cast out of the family home by her mother, the formidable and charismatic Usha, while Torun watched silently. Loya now seeks answers, both from him and from the place that her mother once called home. In her quest, she finds an understanding not only of herself and her life but also of the precarious bonds that tie people together.
A delicate, poignant portrait of family and all that it contains, Undertow becomes, in the hands of this gifted writer, an exploration of much more: home and the outside world, the insider and the outsider, and the ever-evolving nature of love itself.
Jahnavi Barua is a writer based in Bengaluru. Her first book, Next Door, a collection of short fiction, was publushed by Penguin India in 2008 to wide critical acclaim. The second, a novel, Rebirth, was published in 2010 and shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize. Undertow is her third book. She was awarded the Charles Wallace Trust fellowship for creative writing in 2006. Her books are on the syllabi of many universities and her short fiction has been widely anthologized.
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