The Defender of the Faith

September 22, 2019

 

BEST MARATHI NOVEL AWARD OF 2017 BY GOVT. OF MAHARASHTRA, INDIA

Almost everyone in the Shirodkar household knows Shyam is a doomed child. The family astrologer, who is never wrong, has predicted that Shyam will encounter three, near-death accidents and will not survive the third. The question is not if but when the event will happen.

As he grows up motherless in central India, Shyam is treated like a stepchild. While fearing he will be starved, branded, and sent to an orphanage, Shyam matures within his small, poor family while the political and social upheavals of the century threaten to destroy all of them. As Shyam’s life journey leads him to a missionary college in Nagpur, he embraces Western influences that prompt him to question traditions and wisdom acquired through centuries.

While Europe heads toward war, Shyam and his orthodox Hindu father become immersed in a moral struggle that erupts from a volcano of religious fanaticism and age-old traditions. Can the two men ever reach a resolution or will Shyam be left with more questions than answers and a void he will never be able to fill?

Defender of the Faith is a powerful story of love, loss, resilience, and hope as an Indian boy comes of age and embraces Western values that cause friction between his father and him.

 

REVIEW

 

A well-crafted, poignant and thought-provoking coming of age story.

Reviewed by Piaras on September 22, 2019 for Emerald Book Reviews

The Defender of the Faith by Prakash Lothe is a wonderfully written and richly descriptive novel, with brilliantly drawn characters driven by love, loss, resilience, and hope. The author weaves a well-crafted story with emotional highs and lows that will captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning. Skillfully constructed, this coming of age historical fiction revolves around an Indian boy trying to embrace Western values that cause friction between himself and his father.

The book description gives a sneak preview: ‘Almost everyone in the Shirodkar household knows Shyam is a doomed child. The family astrologer, who is never wrong, has predicted that Shyam will encounter three, near-death accidents and will not survive the third. The question is not if but when the event will happen.

As he grows up motherless in central India, Shyam is treated like a stepchild. While fearing he will be starved, branded, and sent to an orphanage, Shyam matures within his small, poor family while the political and social upheavals of the century threaten to destroy all of them. As Shyam’s life journey leads him to a missionary college in Nagpur, he embraces Western influences that prompt him to question traditions and wisdom acquired through centuries.

While Europe heads toward war, Shyam and his orthodox Hindu father become immersed in a moral struggle that erupts from a volcano of religious fanaticism and age-old traditions. Can the two men ever reach a resolution or will Shyam be left with more questions than answers and a void he will never be able to fill?’

Now, if that’s not enough to get your curiosity juices flowing, I don’t know what will. But if you want to find out what happens, you’ll just have to turn the pages for yourself! However, I will say it was well worth the read. It’s my first time reading this author and I was very impressed.

This was a captivating read that had me engrossed from the beginning. The story flowed from scene to scene with ease, and the author shows exceptional ability when it comes to storytelling. I enjoyed the story, character development, and dialogue. There were plenty of poignant and thought-provoking moments that I didn’t see coming and that added to the book’s mystique. When I stopped reading to work, I found myself wondering what happened in the book, and replaying parts of the novel in my head to see if I could figure more out. It has been a while since I enjoyed a book this much.

It’s one of those books that come along occasionally that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end. I’m giving nothing further away here. And this, I hope, will only add to the mystery and enjoyment for the reader.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction, so this for me was a phenomenal read. It’s one of those books that stayed with me for several days after I finished reading. The vivid descriptions of the settings and situations, the people, and the cultural contrasts were stunning and realistic. The author’s use of genuine dialogue further added to the overall atmosphere of authenticity.

I’ll be looking forward to reading more from Prakash Lothe in the future. I would recommend this book and would add that it has a distinctly cinematic feel to it. Highly recommended reading and a well-deserved five stars from me.

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