An Extraordinary Destiny
A NovelShekhar Paleja
About the Book
It’s 1947 in Lahore, and the Sharma family is forced to flee their home during the violence of the Partition of India. As the train tracks measure the ever-growing distance between Varoon and his mother, who vanished during the panic to escape, the boy is thrust towards an uncertain future.
Forty years later, Varoon’s grown son, Anush, desperately tries to disentangle himself from his father’s demands, which are mired in grief and whiskey. Compounding the pressure is an unusually auspicious kundali—a Vedic birth chart—which threatens to suffocate Anush with lofty expectations. But when he meets Nasreen, he feels he may finally be experiencing the incredible fate foretold. Until his father interferes and blocks his chance at true happiness.
Threading artfully through three generations of an Indian family, An Extraordinary Destiny crafts an intricate narrative that reveals, in layers, how decades-old grief rooted in the trauma of history, and couched in familial duty and custom, threaten to sever the sacred connection between ancestors and descendants.
“Paleja weaves together a number of characters’ stories, all of them influenced in some way by predestiny and the consequences of a few choices . . . These characters’ stories influence one another compellingly, making An Extraordinary Destiny hold together despite its wide-ranging structure, and helping it reveal how each character carries with him the choices of generations.” —Foreword Reviews
“In a moment awake to the spectres of fascism in America and Europe, one can only be struck by the scarcity of international attention to the well-established Hindu nationalism in India. Shekhar Paleja’s debut novel charts this movement’s rise by examining the currency of the kundali . . . A good start for a debut novelist; a worthy read for the arc of the story.” —Globe and Mail
“An Extraordinary Destiny . . . establishes him as an author to look up to. His writing is authentic, his voice is strong and complex, and his characters are living beings worthy of following . . . a well-researched, entertaining and an eye-opening narration of a coming of age story that can help you relate to a culture you’d otherwise never experience.” —Ahmad Danny Ramadan, author of The Clothesline Swing
“Epic . . . Shekhar Paleja’s debut marks the arrival of a stunning new writer . . . The comparisons to the work of award-winning Indian-American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri are going to be inevitable and fast coming.” —Minelle Mahtani, Sense of Place on Roundhouse Radio
“This is a book that is ripe with wisdom, generosity of spirit and humility. An Extraordinary Destiny fulfills all the checkmarks for great summer reading and I don’t think you want to miss it.” —Minelle Mahtani, Sense of Place on Roundhouse Radio
“I appreciated Paleja’s ability to tell the story and depict the characters as complex people, not just stereotypes. . . . The inconclusive ending frustrated me, but also felt fitting. The religious tensions are still present, there are always generational pressures within families, and there is no easy “happily ever after” solution for most characters. The characters in An Extraordinary Destiny were complex enough that a simple tying of up loose ends wouldn’t be sufficient. I enjoy historical fiction where I can learn (and usually Wiki-binge after to learn more) while enjoying the storytelling, and Paleja’s novel hit the spot.” —Monica, Monnibo blog