Summary and book reviews of The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

The Association of Small Bombs

by Karan Mahajan

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

The Association of Small Bombs is an expansive and deeply humane novel that is at once groundbreaking in its empathy, dazzling in its acuity, and ambitious in scope.

When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family's television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb - one of the many "small" bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world - detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.

Karan Mahajan writes brilliantly about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators, proving himself to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation.

Excerpt
The Association of Small Bombs

The bombing, for which Mr. and Mrs. Khurana were not present, was a flat, percussive event that began under the bonnet of a parked white Maruti 800, though of course that detail, that detail about the car, could only be confirmed later. A good bombing begins everywhere at once.

A crowded market also begins everywhere at once, and Lajpat Nagar exemplified this type of tumult. A formless swamp of shacks, it bubbled here and there with faces and rolling carts and sloping beggars. It probably held four seasons at once in its gigantic span, all of them hot. When you got from one end of the market to the other, the wooden carts with their shiny aluminum wheels had so rearranged themselves that the market you were in was technically no longer the market you had entered: a Heisenbergian nightmare of motion and ambiguity. So the truth of the matter is that no one really saw the parked car till it came apart in a dizzying flock of shards.

Strange sights were ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I found some of the rationale embraced by those responsible for the bombings to be illogical at times. I'm not a young male, a victim, a minority or a resident of an impoverished city, so my ability to relate to the bombers is certainly limited. Nevertheless, an author should be able to help readers understand unfamiliar points of view, and while exceptionally successful in achieving this in the first half, l I felt his efforts fell a bit short toward the end. The novel also takes readers' knowledge of issues in India such as the ongoing tensions between its Hindu and Muslim communities for granted, and the narrative could benefit from more context for Western readers. The Association of Small Bombs will likely find an audience in those who like well-written literary fiction set in today's India.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (806 words).

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Media Reviews

Vanity Fair

Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs urgently depicts the toll of terrorism on victims and perpetrators.

The New Yorker

[Mahajan's] eagerness to go at the bomb from every angle suggests a voracious approach to fiction-making, a daring imaginative promiscuity that moves beyond the scope of his first, very good novel, Family Planning

The Chicago Tribune

Mahajan's small touches—especially his insight into how people react to trauma and loss—are succinct and persuasive. . . . He's a voice well worth heeding

The Millions

A wise, searing, sculptural approach to the roots and aftermaths of terrorism and radicalization. . . . Mahajan has mastered a nonpareil 360-degree portrait of one of the most disturbing, least understood malaises of our time.

The Wall Street Journal

Brilliant. . . . Mr. Mahajan’s writing is acrid and bracing, tightly packed with dissonant imagery

The New York Times Book Review

Editor's Choice. Wonderful. . . . Smart, devastating, unpredictable, and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout. If you enjoy novels that happily disrupt traditional narratives—about grief, death, violence, politics—I suggest you go out and buy this one. Post haste.

The Washington Post

[A] beautifully written novel. . . . Ambitious. . . . Carries us deep into the human side of a tragedy.

The Huffington Post

A psychologically intimate and stylistically compelling examination of the ripple effects of small acts of terrorism. . . . In a post-9/11 world, this novel should be considered a must-read.

The Los Angeles Review of Books

The architecture of the novel is brilliant in its literary exploration of the aftermath of small bombs. . . . Propulsive. . . . The dark humor keeps the novel lively rather than overdetermined. . . . Powerful, unsettling. . . . The Association of Small Bombs is a thing of loveliness—its structure and concept are a marvel.

Publishers Weekly

In his searing story, lives (and life itself) are subjected to close inspection and at times discombobulation.

Kirkus Reviews

An engaging if plot-thick novel that's alert to the intersection of the emotional and political.

Booklist

In the virtuosic opening of Mahajan’s timely second novel, he writes, ‘a good bombing begins everywhere at once.’ This setup works well for the broad array of story line . . . Mahajan’s terrorists and social activists are never content to settle into one venue or mindset

Author Blurb Adam Johnson, author of the National Book Award winner Fortune Smiles and the Pulitzer Prize winner The Orphan Master's Son
Urgent and masterful, this novel shows us how bystander, bomber, victim, and survivor will forever share a patch of scorched ground.

Author Blurb Dinaw Mengestu, MacArthur "Genius" grantee and author of All Our Names
The Association of Small Bombs is a wondrous, devastating novel - packed with small wonders of beauty and heartbreak that are impossible to resist.

Author Blurb Elizabeth McCracken, Story Prize-winning author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
Karan Mahajan is a virtuoso writer, and this is a wonderful book.

Author Blurb Geoff Dyer, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
A gripping, timely, and moving novel by a writer of enormous talent.

Author Blurb Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
With one sharp observation after another, Mahajan renders a picture of religious and political tension in Delhi that is as unforgettable as it is heartbreaking.

Author Blurb Jim Crace, author of the Booker Prize finalist Harvest
"For all its unflinching - and unnerving - fatalism, The Association of Small Bombs is an unusually wise, tender, and generous novel.

Author Blurb Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award Finalist The Yellow Birds
The Association of Small Bombs is an utterly brilliant book...Karan Mahajan is a writer to be admired.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Gujarat Riots: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Tainted Legacy

In The Association of Small Bombs, the 2002 Gujarat Riots become the rationale for a bombing as terrorists seek revenge against then Chief Minister (and current Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi.

The incident began in the western Indian state of Gujarat on February 27, 2002. A train carrying Hindu pilgrims was parked at a station near Godhra, a city already known for religious tensions between its Hindu and Muslim citizens. Hindu activists began chanting religious slogans which attracted a crowd of Muslim protesters. A fight broke out between the groups and was quelled, but about 15 minutes later a fast-moving fire erupted in the train, resulting in the deaths of 59 people including 25 women and 25 children.

Modi claimed the fire ...

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