What the author also deftly manages is to get us involved in their lives and sympathise for them, even when they break the law (more actively then they have done till now) or take unethical advantages over their friends and associates. Apart from the immigrants and his families, Sahota skillfully depicts a range of supporting characters - a Tamil immigration agent in Delhi, air-hostesses on the take, Turkish long-distance truckers who smuggle immigrants into western Europe and English construction foremen well aware of the Punjabi language. The Indian background is also well done but the Bihar part, especially the latter part, seems a little incongruous.
Sahota, who was adjudged the Granta Best Young British Novelist 2013, is competing with fellow Briton Tom McCarthy, Jamaican Marlon James, US-based Anne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara and Nigerian Chigozie Obioma for the coveted prize, set to be announced later in October. Incidentally, apart from him, James and Yanagihara too are represented here by Pan Macmillan India, under its Picador imprint.
“The Year of the Runaways” may win or not, but as a depiction of the stark realities that unlucky, unqualified immigrants face, it is unlikely to be bettered.
Title: The Year of the Runaways
Author: Sunjeev Sahota
Publisher: Picador India
Price: Rs 599