I just finished the most beautiful book. I picked up Half Life by Roopa Farooki because it was compared, on the back of the galley, to Jhumpa Lahiri and Slumdog Millionaire. But after reading the book, I don’t think it’s quite fair to hang its success on its similarities to other famous Indian authors; this new novel can definitely stand on its own.
Half Life tells, in alternating chapters, the stories of Aruna, Jazz, and Hassan. Aruna has been living in England with her new husband. Jazz has climbed the ladder of literary success and is one of Singapore’s most famous pop authors. And the great poet Hassan is wasting away in a hospital bed. When Aruna walks out of her London life and returns to Singapore, the lives of these three collide after years apart.
Though the book covers only a few days of action, a plethora of well done flashbacks fill in the story so that, by the time the book concludes, you know all three characters: their loves, their demons, their motivations, their relationships to the other characters. The story unfurls in such precise and clever prose that I often found myself reading a sentence over just to consider again a particular turn of phrase. And Farooki’s characterizations are exquisite — so complete, yet free from extraneous details.
I loved this book. For the writing, the plot, the characters, the observations, and everything else. I will be watching for more from Roopa Farooki.