Fame, Fortune or Your Soul: A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Short review: Excellent read, likely going to be shortlisted for a million things, so read it.

Note to self: Why do I keep picking such depressing books this year?

I hope that debut author Megha Majumdar is marking off her Zoom calendar for the myriad award events she’s going to be invited to, the result of a mesmerizing story in “A Burning.” The tale of a young Indian woman jailed for a crime she didn’t commit, Majumdar explores not just Jivan’s experience but those of two additional people that could play a role in her exoneration.

Could … but will they?

PT Sir and Lovely — one a gym teacher looking to climb the socio-economic ladder the other a transgender woman seeking fame as an actress, hold the key to Jivan’s freedom, but only at the expense of the goals each are trying to reach.

A reader will have so many threads to pull in this story, it’s challenging to cover them all here. Probably one of the larger, overarching themes is that of the collective that is humanity and the price individuals pay to be a part of it. Is the larger good worth a certain amount of collateral damage? How much blood is worth spilling to attain goals that benefit that collective?

Book clubs can debate at what point PT truly understands the corruptness of his actions. Or when Lovely sells out. Whether or not Jivan is wise in sharing so much of her story with a reporter. (And, oh my goodness, her cellmate, “If this isn’t a metaphor I don’t know what is” Americandi. What a greedy bitch.)

Told from three points of view, interspersed with a few interludes, Majumdar’s novel moves quickly and engages the reader from the get go, so much so it’ll be difficult to put it down. Readers, be forewarned — its a sad story, pretty much all the way around, and if you have even just a little bit of empathy the climax of the story will likely leave you in tears. But — if becoming attached to characters and narratives is your groove, this is the book for you.

Justice for Jivan. Also? Be careful what you post on social media. If that’s her legacy, it’s a smart one.

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