The Year of the Runaways by Sanjeev Sahot
Published in 2015 by Macmillan Publishers
About the Author
Sahota was born in 1981 in Derby, and his family moved to Chesterfield when he was seven years old. His paternal grandparents had emigrated to Britain from the Punjab in 1966. After finishing school, Sahota studied mathematics at Imperial College London. As of January 2011, he was working in marketing for the insurance company Aviva. Sahota had not read a novel until he was 18 years old, when he read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children while visiting relatives in India before starting university. He bought the book in the airport before flying to India. His second novel, The Year of the Runaways, about the experience of illegal immigrants in Britain, was published in June 2015 and was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize
It took me a while to get through this book. I kept leaving it mid way because it didn’t grip me enough but kept going back to it just because I was curious to know how it ends. The three protagonists from very different backgrounds come together in a journey from India to England. To support their families, build a future or to escape the past. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver will say nothing about his life in Bihar. Avtar has a secret that binds him to the unpredictable Randeep. Randeep in turn has a visa wife in a flat on the other side of town whose cupboards are full of her ‘husbands’ clothes in case the immigration men surprise her with a visit. She is Narinder and her story is the most surprising of all. The end of the book is fitting but sad in many ways. This book is written with grace and showcases struggles of middle class migrant families that try to survive the troubles of getting a visa in a foreign land. It is not always what you expected it to be on the other side and you realize this hard reality only when you get there.