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literary inklings

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No Country by Kalyan Ray


Kalyan Ray's No Country is a special book, full of surprises at every turn of the page and bursting with emotion. An intricate tapestry of the human condition, No Country first tells the story of Brendan McCarthaigh and Padraig Aherne, boyhood friends growing up together in 19th century Ireland. Brendan is a bookish introvert while Padraig positively explodes with energy, finding fervor in the blossoming rebellion of Irishmen against the domineering English. When Padraig follows his passion to Dublin, intent on being part of an uprising of Irish independence, a tragic accident will force him onto a ship bound for India, leaving behind his beloved mother and his dear friend Brendan, as well as the woman he loves and a child he didn't know existed. As Padraig is swept off into the world of the East India Trading Company, Brendan is facing his own life-shattering struggles at home in Ireland: the Great Hunger has struck his homeland, and all around him is falling away. Desperate, and determined to make a good life for the child he's promised to care for, Brendan sets sail for America, wondering every day what became of the dear friend to whom he's now inextricable connected. In an alternating narrative, No Country takes the reader through the stories of not only Padraig and Brendan's lives, but of their ancestors, gliding seamlessly through the Potato Famine of Ireland in the 1840s, through the rise and fall of the British Empire in India, to the base of Mount Vesuvius in turn-of-the-century Italy, and across the Atlantic to America during the majority of the twentieth-century; every thread weaves together a story that ultimately leads to a harrowing crime scene in 1980s New York. In an impressive rendering of history and humanity, author Kalyan Ray's quietly exhilarating novel traces the unfathomable roots of a family tree that belongs to no country and no single ancestry. As the novel glides between varying sections, each in a different time and place, and with a different first-person narrator, it maintains a closeness of connection with the reader, an intimacy usually unprecedented in expansive novels. With a list of character narrators that borders on a dozen, Ray manages never to overwhelm the reader, drawing each character with such definitive clarity that they become instantly recognizable. Each shift of narrative has a way of feeling natural as the days turn into decades and we leave one century, one country, behind for another. With every turn in the winding intricacy of the story new realities are introduced, some heartwarming, many heartbreaking, and all bursting with their commonality of being distinctly, unerringly human. With one short sentence, Ray sums up the meaning at the heart of the novel:

"We are all related: Our mortality is our one common nation."

No Country is a beautifully crafted novel, brought to life with prose that shifts from luminous to disturbing on the whim of its narrator. With relentlessly researched detail, the vastly different settings each swallow the reader’s reality - from pre-famine Ireland to the partition of the Bengal province in the 1940s and the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909 New York. Much of No Country’s beauty stimulates the reader’s mind and heart alike, drawing from the magnanimity of the roots of nature - neither claimed nor bordered - and the same nomadic essence of human nature. In its wake, No Country will leave its reader awoken to the wildness of the world, enchanted with the unknown intricacies of history, and deeply touched by the naturalness of human vulnerability and love.

Title: No Country Author: Kalyan Ray Genre: Historical fiction Publisher: Simon & Schuster Release date: June 17, 2014 Source: Simon & Schuster (c/o) Buy the book: Amazon/Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound More on the author: Facebook | Goodreads

No Country

FictionCasee MarieKalyan Ray