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The Bureau of Second Chances
After more than thirty years in London, recently widowed Thomas Imbalil returns to India. He spends his first months in uncluttered isolation in his house overlooking the Arabian Sea, in a small village in Kerala. But when he agrees to look after his friend's optical store, he meets and befriends Rani, the young assistant. Before long he discovers that Rani is using the store to run an intriguing side-business. He agrees to turn a blind eye, but the discovery has made him restless, and reminds him of the lonliness he is feeling and which lies ahead of him. Rani also reveals herself as a much more complex individual than he had first imagined, and while he had envisaged a quiet reacquaintance with his homeland, Thomas finds himself becoming more and more entangled with the lives of those around him.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
This gentle yet beautifully told story follows recently windowed Thomas on a journey back to his homeland. Thomas had planned to retire back to India with his wife, but when she is cruelly taken from him, he makes the journey alone. After a few months in Kaerala spent trying to reacquaint himself with the India of his childhood, a friend asks him to look after an optical store as a favour and he leaves to help.
Not all is as it seems in the store though and he soon comes to suspect that the efficient and trusted assistant, Rani, us up to something. He agrees to turn a blind eye to her 'side business' and before long he is discovering himself in a way he never thought possible. He begins to hope that maybe there is a second chance at happiness for him too.
Sheena Kalayil paints a wonderfully atmospheric picture of life in India. She brought her characters to life in a way that was engaging from the first page and left me wanting more. This is a beautiful story told by a very talented author.
'There is plenty of light, with passages that will make you smile, but it has its share of darkness, touching on caste and social expectations in India, as well as reflections on marriage, illness and parenting ... I raced through the last third of the book on the edge of my seat, desperate to know how it turned out' * The Bookbag * 'A bittersweet, uplifting tone makes it impossible to put down ... Kalayil writes beautifully, painting colourful portraits of her characters and managing her story's unexpected twists with aplomb' * Scotland on Sunday * 'Sheena Kalayil's first novel shows an almost preternatural skill and power. This quiet story becomes a compelling page-turner' -- Ian Pople * Manchester Review *