Amnesty by Avarind Adiga

Amnesty-Aravind-Adiga-BookDragonThis book certainly has an interesting premise, and the writing is vivid. The narrator’s voice is one we badly need to hear these days, and the characters are engaging. But I came away with the feeling that this should’ve been a short story, not a medium-length novel.

The premise: Danny is a young Sri Lankan who escaped a desperate situation in his country and came to Australia, intentionally overstaying a visa. As an undocumented person and a South Asian, he is marginalized, but makes things work surprisingly cheerfully as a cleaner. He befriends one of his clients, a married woman who is involved in a long-term affair, and Danny, the woman, and her lover have a bizarrely close relationship. When the lover kills the woman, Danny seems to be the only person who knows what happened. The problem is, the killer will turn him in to immigration if he tells the police. That’s essentially it for plot — and the book begins after the murder has happened.

The book has a single-day structure (something I often enjoy) marked by time stamps, through which Danny continues to communicate with the killer and agonize ad nauseam over what to do.  Adiga certainly captures the anxiety and powerlessness Danny faces, but I’m not sure you can build a novel around endless waffling and worrying, without more.

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