Nikesh Shukla – The One Who Wrote Destiny (4 stars)

Nikesh Shukla – The One Who Wrote Destiny

Heart-warming and at times hard-hitting coming-of-age novel

With destiny as the connecting thread that weaves its way through each narrative, Nikesh Shukla's The One Who Wrote Destiny is a heart-warming and at times hard-hitting journey through three generations of the Jani family. Mukesh moves from Kenya to Keighley, finding racism, loneliness and the love of his life instead of fame and fortune as originally planned. But this story, which begins with him standing across from Nisha's house, struggling to put into words how he feels about her, is recounted a number of times, with each changing setting adding a new depth and meaning to the original.

As the story switches from Kenya to Keighley and then to London, Edinburgh and New York, Shukla draws attention to the prevalence of racism and micro aggressions in each environment, demonstrating that such a reality is a norm that still exists for many. The points at which this bigotry is coupled with violence and brutality are particularly affecting, but so too are the casual comments made by bystanders and acquaintances, which pack an alternative kind of emotional punch.

With death, grief and a strange sense of certainty at the story's heart, The One Who Wrote Destiny places an emphasis on belonging and how one's fate can be predetermined or foretold. Through Mukesh, his son and daughter Raks and Neha, and their grandmother Ba, Shukla explores both the personal battles that each character must endure and the wider systemic issues of racism, oppression and difference that affect their lives in occasionally subtle and usually significant ways.

The use of language and vernacular foregrounds this difference but also works to accentuate the feeling of family and community, adding a warmth and familiarity to their varying situations. Ultimately, this is a beautifully written and thought-provoking piece of work, which balances humour, anger and melancholy in a way that is charming and utterly engrossing.

Out Thu 5 Apr, published by Atlantic Books.

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