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The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh

Set in the mysterious, dangerous and constantly changing terrain of the Sunderbans in East India and Bangladesh, this gripping tale of young woman’s journey unfolds spectacularly with all the drama of a Shakespearean play and mythological echoes of the great Indian epics.

A young Indian born American marine biologist, Piyali Roy journeys to the Sunderbans to study their unique marine life. To help her navigate the rough seas and terrain, she engages a fisherman, Fokir who doesn’t speak English but has an almost mystical knowledge of the lay of the land and sea. She also runs into Kanai Dutt, an urbane, suave and witty character who happens to be visiting his aunt in the Sunderbans and goes along with the mission out of a sense of intrigue and a personal interest in our heroine. The interplay between the three is masterful, but the story is set on two levels. Kanai’s widowed aunt has found old documents that describe events three decades earlier, a struggle between Indian authorities and settlers in the Sunderbans region. The tale of the refugees fighting for their political rights years ago interspersed with the storms that Kanai, Piyali and Fokir battle make this a truly breathtaking piece of literature.

I don’t read much fiction these days, but I picked this book up and was floored by it. I heartily recommend a read.