Such a Long Journey

India, the world’s largest democracy, is rapidly becoming the world’s greatest producer of emigre fiction writers: Salman Rushdie in England, Bharati Mukherjee in the United States, and now Rohinton Mistry in Canada. Mistry’s 1987 collection, THE SWIMMING LESSON AND OTHER STORIES, was short-listed for Canada’s prestigious Governor-General’s Award. SUCH A LONG JOURNEY, his first novel, deserves that and more. Narrated in a deceptively simple style, the novel focuses on about a year in the life of Gustad Noble, a Parsi in his mid-forties. Years after the collapse of his father’s bookselling business and the subsequent loss of nearly all the family’s belongings (including the fine furniture made by his grandfather) and after years of sacrifice on his and his wife’s part (especially following his broken hip nine years before), Gustad finally has reason to hope: His elder son, Sohrab, has been accepted at the prestigious India Institute of Technology. Sohrab, however, has other interests, other plans. As relations between father and son deteriorate, the plot of SUCH A LONG JOURNEY begins to take on the melodramatic shading of a Hindi movie. His son’s ingratitude, his daughter’s worsening illness, friction with his neighbors, and soaring prices are set against the backdrop of the second India-Pakistan war and the transformation of east Pakistan into independent (albeit impoverished) Bangladesh.

The simplicity of Mistry’s narrative may...

(The entire section is 439 words.)