Lesson in love and friendship
By ignoring my inner voice - which, thankfully, is only muttering “cliché” and not shouting it - I can declare Naeem Murr’s third novel the perfect book.
It’s the kind of book you know only a third of the way through that you’ll pick up again and again and read with the same amount of pleasure it gave you the first time.
It’s so good that you have to pass your copy on to others, and then begrudge them their pleasure because you’re jealous it’s not yours.
Murr captures perfectly how childhood trauma can follow victims to the grave, and how friendship forged in extremity and through validation of a shared experience can be so intense, it excludes all others.
His novel tells the story of Rajiv Travers, removed from his mother in India and dumped with an uncle in England. Rajiv is extremely clever, which helps him survive the taunting a dark-skinned boy attracts in an English school just after the Second World War.
However, his cleverness doesn’t protect him from a bitter aunt who believes he is a bad influence on his cousin - and so Rajiv is abandoned again, this time in Pisgah, Missouri, with a lover of another uncle who has just died.
Rajiv makes firm friends in the small rural town where no one has ever set eyes on an Indian before. One of them is Lewis, who is haunted by the murder of his autistic brother, Rohan.
As Rajiv struggles to find his place, his loyalties shift from one friend to another, and he sublimates his own desires in an attempt to meet the needs of the friends who have become the most important people in his life.
Murr renders time elastic as he tells the coming-of-age story. This superb novel is a beautiful lesson about love in all its guises and its power to heal even the most damaged of souls.
Rehana Rossouw (Business Day, South Africa)