I knew last year (thanks to an accidental stumble upon of the googlish kind) that Preeta Samarasan had been signed up by literary agency Lyons and Pande International and had already begun to garner awards - even before her first novel was published.
I just heard (thanks Raman!) that her first novel Evening is the Whole Day is to be published by Houghton-Mifflin.
Here's the low-down:
The already acclaimed debut of a promising young Indian-Malaysian author, this masterful gothic novel transports us to Malaysia circa 1980, as the prosperous Rajasekharan family of Big House, Ipoh, slowly peels away its closely-guarded secrets.More news as soon as I have it!
Winner of the University of Michigan's Hopwood First Novel Award, Preeta Samarasan's spellbinding first novel opens with the Rajasekharan family's dismissal of Chellam, a rubber-plantation servant girl, for unnamed crimes. We soon learn that this is their third loss in a matter of weeks: Paati, the family's aging grandmother, has died under mysterious circumstances, and Uma, their golden child, has escaped to Columbia University with no plans to return. As the novel gradually moves backward in time to tell the story of the years leading up to these events, we learn how the Rajasekharan family came to occupy the Big House, and how Oxford-educated Appa, the family patriarch, courted Amma, the humble girl-next-door, and what happened to Appa's big dreams for his family and his country. Along the way, we begin to uncover the answers to the many questions that haunt this damaged family: What was Chellam's unforgivable crime? Why did Uma become so withdrawn in the months before she left home? How and why did Paati die? What did six-year-old Aasha see? And most pressingly for Aasha, why is Amma, her mother, so angry at Appa, her father?
Beginning with Chellam's firing and circling through years of family history to arrive at the moment of Uma's definitive departure— stranding her worshipful younger sister in a family, and a country, slowly going to pieces— EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY illuminates in heartbreaking detail the family's layers of secrets and lies, while exposing the sordid underbelly of post-colonial Malaysia itself, a country where the Malay majority rules in favor of its own and where no matter how "big" and Indian you are, you're still just an Indian.
A piercing indictment of the many ways parents fail their children, the wealthy fail the poor, EVENING IS THE WHOLE DAY is a mesmerizing and vital achievement sure to earn Preeta Samarasan a place in the postcolonial pantheon. It is also the very first novel to explore the Indian experience in Malaysia. Like Kiran Desai, Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Preeta Samarasan represents a new generation of young women writers—ones inspired by the earlier writings of Graham Swift, Chinua Achebe and Salman Rushdie--who bring their own distinct and critical sensibilities to their postcolonial subjects.
Preeta Samarasan was born and raised in Malaysia, but moved to the United States to finish high-school and to complete her education. She recently received her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan, where this novel received the Hopwood Novel Award; she also recently won the Asian American Writer's Workshop short-story award (judged by Monique Truong).
It is also the very first novel to explore the Indian experience in Malaysia.Ermm ... Rani Manicka's The Rice Mother?