One of the main themes of Hari Kunzru’s novel My Revolutions is that the past can never be forgotten. Michael Frame, the novel’s protagonist, discovers this the hard way. He has been living a double life. As Miranda (who knows only half of Michael’s story) prepares a celebration for Michael’s fiftieth birthday, Michael’s past comes knocking at the door.

The novel is set in two different places in time. One is the novel’s present, near the end of the twentieth century. The other is the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. The Vietnam War is inflaming anti-war passions of young people in the United States and Europe. Michael appears in both of these settings. In the present, he is living with Miranda and helping to raise her daughter. In the 1960s, he is Chris Carver, a young British revolutionary.

The storyline switches back and forth between these two settings, showing the diametrically opposed sides of the protagonist’s life. In the present, Michael appears to be a bumbling fool, unable to speak to his wife or daughter and unable to put a definite finger on what he wants to do with his life. In the past, Michael plants bombs and philosophizes about the theoretical coming of a new society.

Detailed flashbacks frequently infringe on the present and the two sides of Michael begin to melt into one. The past sneaks up on him through the reappearance of people he knew in the 1960s—people he had run away from. Before the novel ends, Michael must confront his double life and confess to the two people that he loves, Miranda and Sam, before his past rips open the lie he has been living for more than sixteen years.

Extended Summary

Kunzru’s My Revolutions begins with preparations for a large party to celebrate Michael Frame’s fiftieth birthday. Michael has been living with Miranda for sixteen years, helping to raise her daughter, Sam. Sam is now nineteen and in college. She has come home for Michael’s party. Michael, as narrator of this story, watches all the confusion but suggests that none of this matters. He says everything is over because of Miles, a friend from Michael’s past, who has shown up a few days ago. Michael is tormented by the effect Miles’s arrival will have on Miranda and Sam. They know Michael only as a sort of old hippie living the life of househusband to his ambitious Miranda. They know nothing of Michael’s past, which he lived as Chris Carver.

Because he cannot face Miranda and Sam, Michael decides to leave. He will go to France. This reminds him of a trip he and Miranda took the previous year in an attempt to patch up their relationship, which had become strained. While in France, Michael thought he saw another friend from his past, Anna Addison, whom he thought was dead. He followed her but did not confront her. Now he is heading back to France to do just that. As Chris Carver, Michael had once loved Anna.

The story returns to memories of 1968, when Chris is twenty and involved in a political protest, when he meets Anna. They are protesting the Vietnam War. After being thrown in jail for the protest, Chris also meets Miles. Miles supposedly was at the protest too, but Miles is freed a few hours after being arrested. In contrast, Chris is sentenced to a six-week term for punching a police officer. When Chris gets out, his former friends are afraid to hang out with him because he now has a criminal record.

Chris drifts around after getting out of jail and finally joins another group of protesters. In this group are Sean Ward and Anna Addison, who are more revolutionary than the college protester group that Chris belonged to before he went to jail. It is through Sean and Anna’s influence that Chris becomes more radical.

At first, this new group is just involved in misdemeanors. But they gradually become more hardened. One night they break into a grocery store and steal a van full of food, which they distribute to poor families. Later they steal dynamite from a construction site and blow up statues and front doors on banks and other businesses they believe to be decadent capitalists. They leave printed statements at the sites of their crimes, claiming...

(The entire section is 1028 words.)