I could blame Prajwal Parajuly for the burn I got on the beach in Santa Monica on Independence Day. It was because of him that I sat in the blazing midday sun for hours, oblivious to my scorching extremities, devouring his debut, The Gurkha’s Daughter, from start to finish.
But I won’t hold it against him, for the pleasure of these short stories — about the Nepalese diaspora — trumps the peril of having singed my skin. Parajuly has achieved what many writers only dream of doing: Drawing characters in realistic, artful scenarios that encapsulate the beauty and pain and complexity of life. No wonder his book has become a bestseller in the UK. His talent matches the hype.
Each story left me longing for more. You won’t love or even like every person you’ll meet, but you’ll thank Parajuly for the introduction.You won’t love or even like every person you’ll meet, but you’ll thank Parajuly for the introduction. A young woman chooses a boorish man of the same caste as a husband to please her parents, eschewing another suitor whom she truly loves. An enslaved maid in the service of a bratty, abusive matron patiently endures abuse while dreaming of a better life. A Bhutanese refugee’s estranged spouse suddenly reappears after she’s chosen for relocation to the US.
Parajuly stops each tale at a moment that leaves you desperate for elaboration, underscoring how difficult it is to sew up modern, global issues presented here in neat little bows.
As a young woman growing up in modest means in Brooklyn, I was drawn to the stories of Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty to sate my interest in a place that then seemed so faraway: the deep south of America. Just as their artfulness is set against the backdrop of a particular landscape, while managing to address universal themes of longing, loss, desire, and heartache, so is the case for this new author. Parajuly happens to be of Indian-Nepali descent, educated in the West, but I hope he and his work don’t get relegated by geography.Parajuly has given us a lovely gift, food for thought, and delectable, too.
As I sat on the beach, I burst into tears at the end of the last story in the collection, called The Immigrant. My partner, who happens to be an immigrant, woke up from a doze. Relaying the storyline couldn’t do it justice: The writing was what I wanted to share. He sat and read, rapt with attention. It was worth sitting exposed, unprotected, in the sun, a bit longer to watch his reaction. Parajuly has given us a lovely gift, food for thought, and delectable, too.
Lisa Napoli has worked and written for CNN, the New York Times, and MSNBC. She is currently a contributor to KCRW in Los Angeles. She is the author of Radio Shangri-la: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth.