A compelling thriller that introduces a new hero for our times: Ranjit Singh, former captain in the Indian Army, illegal immigrant in the heart of white America and caretaker to the rich and famous.
One harsh winter, Ranjit illegally moves his family into an empty, luxurious vacation home belonging to an African-American Senator. Ensconced in the house, he tries to forget his brief affair with Anna, the Senators wife, and focuses on providing for his family. But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house, searching for an antique porcelain doll. Forced to flee, Ranjit is hunted by unknown forces and gets drawn into the Senators shadowy world. To save his family and solve the mystery of the doll, he must join forces with Anna, who has her own dark secrets. As he battles to save his family, Ranjit’s painful past resurfaces and he must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his career in the Army and forced him to leave India.
Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha’s Vineyard and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan.
I have always proclaimed how I love thrillers. They take me to another world, where every moment is pumped by adrenaline rush. The chases, hideouts, clues, investigations, even murders make me happy. Not many thrillers are doing the round in the Indian Literary Circle these days, they still are dominated by the Romance genre. Themed thrillers are also gaining momentum gradually – banks, media, police, even Bollywood!
In this hiatus, The Caretaker is compelling. It has a setup that I’m vaguely familiar with – not the Martha’s Vineyard part, but the one about immigrants in the US of A. Many Indians, despite having legal visas would grasp the dilemma and fear of Ranjit Singh, the protagonist. An ex-military, he escapes with his family from India to Boston for shelter. You have to read the book to know why, since that is the parallel plot. Stifled in a grocery store run by his wife’s relative, Ranjit moves to Martha’s Vineyard for greener pastures (not literally!). He and his daughter like the quaint coastal tourist spot for the rich.
Ranjit is portrayed so flawlessly that you can actually visualize the six feet brown Sikh among others. He stands out with his past, his delusions, his frustrations and his hard work. The author has made an amazing characterization of Ranjit and Anna. His descriptions are lucid and vivid. Anna’s little yellow dress and the jug of lemonade are bound to linger in the readers’ mind long after they finish the book. Boston is narrated as smartly as Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve been to Boston’s Chinatown and it can be as puzzling as all other China-towns across the world.
The author has amazing clarity in his writing and I loved his use of language. A bit of Hindi and Gurbani here and there have added the much needed military and Sikh flavour to the story. I hear there’s a Ranjit Singh trilogy coming and I will look forward to the sequels. A.X.Ahmad has just been added to my list of favourite Indian English authors.
My Rating: 4.5/5
About the Author:
A. X. Ahmad was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T. and has worked as an international architect. As Amin Ahmad, his short stories and essays on immigrant life have been published in The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, The New England Review, Narrative Magazine and The Good Men Project. He was a finalist for Glimmertrains Short Story Award and his work been listed in Best American Essays. He lives in Washington, D.C, where he teaches writing.
Language: English, Genre: Fiction/Thriller
Publisher: Harper Collins, Year Published: 2013
Binding: Paperback, Edition: First, Pages: 294
ISBN-13: 9789350299968, ISBN-10: 9350299968
Reviewed for: Harper Collins and Indiblogger