A State of Freedom

Neel Mukherjee's incredible third novel, A State of Freedom, presents a mosaic of life in modern-day India that is chaotic and tragic, but also inspiring.

The story follows a number of poor residents struggling to work their way up in a deeply stratified society. Two of the most compelling characters are domestic servants Renu and Milly, who both migrate from rural poverty to Mumbai and find work with well-to-do families. They live in the same seaside slum, folded into the city's infrastructure, almost out of sight from the luxury apartments nearby. Milly increases her workload and saves money to send her children to school. Mukherjee (The Lives of Others) has created a character of admirable tenacity and singular purpose, a woman who refuses to be broken by adversity. Similarly, Renu is also saving money to support higher education for her family. In the course of her work, she forms an improbable friendship with the son of a wealthy family. The son is a London resident who has returned to his native country to write a cookbook about Indian cuisine. He is shocked to find the slum in which both Renu and Milly live.

A State of Freedom is a complex, groundbreaking novel that blends mythic pathos with unflinching social realism. Mukherjee's India is a place beset by poverty, corruption, exploitation and gross inequity, but a place, nonetheless, in which the human spirit survives. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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