The Year of the Runaways

Sunjeev Sahota's The Year of the Runaways is a sweeping epic that weaves together the lives of three Indian immigrants in Northern England. Tochi is from the untouchable caste and is fleeing a violent past; Avtar is from a lower-middle-class family and wants to be able to provide for his parents and wife-to-be; Randeep is from an upper-middle-class household whose livelihood is threatened when Randeep's ailing father loses his job. Though the three come from disparate backgrounds, they have come to the U.K. seeking the same thing: opportunity.

In England, their lives are thrown together in haphazard, chaotic ways. They work together; they live together. They battle one another; they despise yet rely on each other. As immigrants working in England illegally, they share a fear of raids and feel the constant need for more money. As individuals, they face hard choices about who they were in India and who they want to be in England.

The Year of the Runaways is somewhat slow to build and can be confusing at times, which ultimately sets the tone perfectly for Sahota's nuanced exploration of what it is to feel out of place and bewildered by a new culture. Against this backdrop, Sahota brings his flawed and imperfect characters to life with stark, beautiful and unapologetic language--language that will ultimately pull readers into a story that is at once hyper-focused on the issue of Indian immigration to England and more broadly reflective of individual struggles to define an identity and a future. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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