Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Far Field

by Madhuri Vijay

An elegant, epic debut novel—“equal parts love story, war story, and family intrigue” (Ben Fountain)—from an exciting new talent and Pushcart Prize-winner that follows one young woman’s search for a lost figure from her childhood, a journey that takes her from Southern India to Kashmir and to the brink of a devastating political and personal reckoning

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date January 15, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2840-9
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date January 15, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4637-3
  • US List Price $27.00

About the Book

The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both.”—Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno

Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present.

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Far Field

An Indies Introduce pick, an IndieNext selection, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, a Publishers Weekly Book of the Week

A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 for Entertainment Weekly, Refinery29, Business Insider, and Bustle

“Consuming… Vijay’s command of storytelling is so supple that it’s easy to discount the stealth with which she constructs her tale, shifting time frames with seamless ease and juggling a wealth of characters who cling to the heart. The show-stealer is Shalini’s mercurial mother, an ‘outrageous queen’ of capricious gestures. Vijay smartly resists psychoanalyzing her, implying that the china-shop bulls in our families can be survived but never entirely explained away.”—New York Times Book Review

“Vijay probes grand themes—tribalism, despotism, betrayal, death, resurrection—in exquisite but unflowery prose, and with sincere sentiment but little sentimentality.”—New Yorker

“‘All finite things reveal infinitude,’ wrote Theodore Roethke in ‘The Far Field.’  That poem, published in Roethke’s final collection in 1964, concludes with the image of ‘a ripple widening from a single stone / Winding around the waters of the world.’ That’s exactly the expanding effect of Madhuri Vijay’s debut novel, which is also titled The Far Field… For the vast majority of us, who hear of the troubles in Kashmir only as a faint strain in the general din of world tragedies, The Far Field offers something essential: a chance to glimpse the lives of distant people captured in prose gorgeous enough to make them indelible — and honest enough to make them real.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Madhuri Vijay’s supremely accomplished debut novel, ‘The Far Field,’ … is an expansive and wonderfully immersive work … Vijay gives us a brilliant outsider’s view of an exotic, off-the-beaten-track realm and a compelling portrayal of a character gradually unraveling due to forces beyond her control. This is a stunning novel that skillfully grapples with the complexities of human relationships. Madhuri Vijay’s career looks very bright indeed.” –Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Ms. Vijay is an effortlessly assured prose writer. The book’s length led me to expect something slow and atmospheric, but to my surprise I snapped it up in two sittings… Ms. Vijay makes shrewd use of parallels and asymmetries in these mirrored narratives. Shalini intrudes on Bashir’s son’s household just as Bashir once disrupted hers. The counterpart to the wonderfully sharp-tongued figure of Shalini’s mother is Bashir’s impudent, fearless daughter-in-law, Amina, who steals every scene she’s in… ‘The Far Field’ is illuminating about the persecutions in Kashmir, but at its heart it is about the ironclad laws of class by which all India is ruled.”—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“In Madhuri Vijay’s exquisite debut novel, grief propels a young woman to northern India, where she seeks answers about her mother’s past. She meets people and communities constantly on the brink of political violence, upending her assumptions about herself and her country.”Elle

“A story exploring the passage of time and the repercussions of one’s actions sets out to ask the charged question of what it is that we spend our lives searching for.”—Vanity Fair

“A ghastly secret lies at the heart of Madhuri Vijay’s stunning debut, The Far Field, and every chapter beckons us closer to discovering it… The Far Field chafes against the useless pity of outsiders and instead encourages a much more difficult solution: cross-cultural empathy.”—Paris Review

“Loss can make a detective out of anyone, taking us on odd, winding, revelatory journeys toward resolving the pain of the finite. It can also, as Madhuri Vijay so thornily illustrates in her debut novel, The Far Field, blind us from all that’s around us — from our actions and their consequences. Grief, she argues, can be a fundamentally selfish pursuit… a layered examination of pressing Indian political conflicts… Shalini’s wounded narration — her wistful, nostalgic anguish — still pulses through most intensely, lending the novel the feel of a sorrowful family epic. Here is a singular story of mother and daughter — a loving, broken bond so strong it touches, changes, and hurts countless lives beyond theirs.”—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

“Vijay provides that alchemical mix of political examination with personal journey that deepens all great novels. The Far Field plays out along the Indian/Kashmir border and follows a young woman’s awakening into the dark realities of her family and her country. As an added bonus, her mother is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary literature. At times brutal, but always tuned to the desperately sweet longing for human connection, Vijay has created a necessary and lovely work that transcends 2018!”Southern Living

“Exquisite… Vijay does a superb job of showing how the personal and the political spark off one another to drive change in both. But when violence erupts in Kashmir, difficult choices must be made and sobering lessons learned about privilege, Indian history, class prejudice, violence, and sexuality.” Amazon

“Remarkable… engrossing… Vijay’s stunning debut novel expertly intertwines the personal and political to pick apart the history of Jammu and Kashmir.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Vijay intertwines her story’s threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.”Booklist (Starred Review)

“Vivid… a striking debut.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Dazzling… Vijay’s prose is exquisite—florid and descriptive at times, spare and pared back at others. The story keeps twisting unexpectedly until the end, keeping emotions fraught, questions percolating. It’s a scintillating novel from a truly gifted writer.”—Bookpage (Starred Review)

“Remarkably vivid … Vijay’s descriptive powers and eloquent prose work brilliantly in awakening the reader to the majestic beauty of Kashmir and the severe hardships of villagers who make their home in its verdant landscape. Vijay’s writing is socially astute, exploring taboos of mental illness, female sexuality and religious indifference. It is also politically relevant, a reminder that beautiful but war-torn Kashmir is still a disputed territory, fought over for decades by India and Pakistan.”Shahina Piyarali, Shelf Awareness

“I had to remind myself while reading The Far Field that this is the work of a debut novelist, and not a mid-career book by a master writer at the height of her powers.  Madhuri Vijay astonishes with her wisdom, her fearlessness, her sure handling of a desperately loaded narrative that’s equal parts love story, war story, and family intrigue.  Such is the power of Vijay’s writing that I finished the book feeling like I’d lived it.  Only the very best novels are experienced, as opposed to merely read, and this is one of those rare and brilliant novels.”—Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again

“I am in awe of Madhuri Vijay. With poised and measured grace, The Far Field tells a story as immediate and urgent as life beyond the page. I will think of these characters – tender and complex, mysterious and flawed, remarkably real to me – for years to come, as though I have lived alongside them.”—Anna Noyes, author of Goodnight, Beautiful Women

“Utterly immersive and vividly realized, The Far Field is that rare gem of a novel which effortlessly transports the reader into distant, unfamiliar terrain through the force of a story deeply anchored in the humanity of its characters. Madhuri Vijay’s debut marks the arrival of an astonishing new talent.”—Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden

The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both.”—Anthony Marra, author of The Tzar of Love and Techno

“This riveting and unique book faces the most troubling, insoluble questions with a bold, keen clarity that has no patience for anything less than the complete truth, even if that truth is disappointing or merciless or dark. The fierce undertow of Vijay’s prose masterfully propels this story about loyalty, about how we create, sustain, and inevitably break our bonds with other people.”—Merritt Tierce, author of Love Me Back

“I loved this novel. Shalini is an utterly convincing narrator, particularly in her naïveté, which might very well serve as a metaphor for her country’s refusal to see what it has wrought in Kashmir. Madhuri Vijay has written a brilliant and important book.”—Liaquat Ahamed, author of Lords of Finance

“What do we spend our lives searching for? What lasts and what pushes us forward? These are some of the questions Madhuri Vijay’s THE FAR FIELD explores and navigates with a heart on fire. Stunning in its artistry, in its engagement with the world and the personal, this is a profound and monumental achievement composed with rage, vulnerability, humor, grief, and mystery. How dangerous this novel is, in the very best of ways, and how grateful I am for this writer and for her creation.”—Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain

“A strikingly unusual book full of beauty and surprise.”—Sonia Faleiro, author of Beautiful Thing

Bookseller praise for The Far Field

“Few seasoned novelists–let alone a first-time novelist like Madhuri Vijay–are able to construct scene after scene with compelling interior drama, tension and forward momentum. You never want to stop reading as Vijay skillfully combines a personal journey and a family mystery with a political examination of the Kashmiri-Indian troubles. Shalini, the narrator of this extraordinary work, has a mother who immediately belongs on any shortlist of literature’s great characters. If I read a better novel in 2019, then 2019 will become my favorite year of the 21st Century.”—Brian Lampkin, Scuppernong Books (Greensboro, NC)

“In Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field a young woman named Shalini explores the fraught and tender relationship between herself and her mother, and the roots of tragedy. Following her mother’s death, Shalini leaves her privileged life in Bangalore for Kashmir–a place still scarred from the insurgencies of the 1980s and 90s–to find her mother’s friend. Her quest, and its consequences, matched with lucid prose makes for an engrossing and accomplished novel.”—Myles Mickle, Village Square Booksellers (Bellows Falls, VT)

“This rich, beautifully detailed story reads like the work of a seasoned novelist. Shalini, a young woman from Bangalore, travels to Kashmir to try to answer questions about her mother’s untimely death. She becomes embroiled in the political rivalries that boil under the surface in that troubled area. Vijay’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of southern India and Kashmir are dead-on. The characters are drawn with the detail of a fine portrait artist, with a deft hand at highlighting the flaws and goodness of even the most minor players.”—Grace Harper, Mac’s Backs (Cleveland, OH)

“In her remarkably accomplished debut novel, The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay takes a young woman on a quest, from her home in southern India to the politically-charged, volatile setting of Kashmir, which is also a quest into mysteries and uncertainties in her family’s history. There are things about her mother, her father, another man. People, places, situations – tension – disclosures and revelations all happen, the way life happens, what’s revealed after being concealed – all are evoked with beautiful, precise language. There is an assurance here, knowing of people’s ways, that belie this being a first book or a younger writer. Beautifully done.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

“I am thirty years old and that is nothing.” says The Far Field’s narrator, Shalini, in the first line of this book, a statement that drives right into the heart of this story. What does age mean when the years have been sheltered, privileged? What does it mean to pursue a ghost from your past, a ghost that takes you out of the city (Bangalore) to a mountainous village in a politically volatile state (Kashmir)? What are our blind spots, and how can they wreck the lives of others? These are the deeper undercurrents of this force of a novel. Shalini’s combination of self-awareness and recklessness makes this an absorbing, swift read, and The Far Field unfolds like a mystery. This is the kind of the story that calls to you when you’re away from it, the kind of story that you never forget.” –Shuchi Saraswat, Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA)

“Rarely does a book of this size and breadth capture a reader in the first few pages, but Madhuri Vijay’s master storytelling sweeps you up and never lets you go. The Far Field is everything you want in an epic – love, loss, and relationships that transcend even the most horrific circumstances. Not everything is as it appears on the surface, and Vijay’s nuanced writing creates depths that transform her characters and her readers.” –Julie Slavinsky, Warwick’s (La Jolla, CA)

“This is a big, beautiful novel with depth and a big heart. I was swept up in the story from the first page to the last.” –Kerry Barringer, Little City Books (Hoboken, NJ)

“The death of Shalini’s mother sparks a journey to Kashmir in search of a man who seemed to one day simply disappear. Once she finally reaches her destination, she is taken in by a family and soon realizes that she has found herself not in the Kashmir of the tales she was told as child, but one of a people, culture and region in bitter conflict. Written in rich prose, and intriguing characters, this debut is a slow burn that will linger long after pages are finished.” –Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is stunning! Shalini is a young woman from Bangalore searching for a man from memories of her childhood among the remote Himalayan villages of Kashmir to learn about her layered and enigmatic mother. Her journey forces her to go face-to-face with civil and social politics, while contending with the matters of her heart. Madhuri Vijay’s writing is so aromatic, I could smell perfume and plumes of smoke in her sentences. I absolutely loved it!” –Thu Doan, Brazos Bookstore

 

Excerpt

I am thirty years old and that is nothing.

I know what this sounds like, and I hesitate to begin with something so obvious, but let me say it anyway, at the risk of sounding naïve. And let it stand alongside this: eight years ago, a man I knew vanished from his home in the mountains. He vanished in part because of me, because of certain things I said, but also things I did not have, until now, the courage to say. So, you see, there is nothing to be gained by pretending to a wisdom I do not possess. What I am, what I was, and what I have done, all of these will become clear soon enough.

This country, already ancient when I was born in 1980, has changed every instant I’ve been alive. Titanic events have ripped it apart year after year, each time rearranging it along slightly different seams: prime ministers assassinated, peasant-guerillas waging desperate war in emerald jungles, fields cracking under the iron heel of a drought, nuclear bombs cratering the wide desert floor, lethal gases blasting from pipes and into ten thousand lungs, mobs crashing against mobs and always coming away bloody. Consider this: even now, at this very moment, there are people huddled in a room somewhere, waiting to die. This is what I have told myself for the last eight years, each time I have had the urge to speak. It will make no difference in the end.