“An unexpected friendship between a traveling Muslim garment seller from a remote Himalayan village and the aloof wife of a wealthy Hindu businessman from the southern Indian city of Bangalore forms the basis of The Far Field, the dazzling debut novel from Madhuri Vijay.
The salesman, Bashir Ahmed, is warm and charismatic, and his unlikely friend is the volatile mother of Shalini, a privileged young woman and the first-person narrator of the novel. After her mother’s death, Shalini, listless and troubled, goes off in search of Ahmed to find closure. At first it seems like an odd, reckless decision, to travel to the troubled northern end of the country—to Jammu and then Kashmir—in search of someone whom she only barely remembers from childhood and about whom she has only scant information.
In Jammu, Shalini lodges with a Muslim family that has been shattered by the loss of a son at the hands of the Indian Army. She then tracks down Ahmed’s family, who take her to their remote Indian village and treat her as one of their own. However, Shalini is in the midst of a fractured landscape, and nothing is what it seems. Hindus and Muslims are at loggerheads, and the army appears responsible for a series of disappearances. Foreign militants have been infiltrating the area, increasing tensions. Shalini’s longing for connection and love within this tumultuous setting only exacerbates her problems.”