Giller Reading Day 6: The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

Untitled design-3You guys… I did it. I set a goal and I followed through. Today marks the conclusion of my Giller Readalong Reviews. I’ve had so much fun reading books by so many talented authors with plots that are unique, diversified and captivating. I’ve also had a wonderful time connecting with all of you in the comments and on social media, so many thanks for taking the time to say hi! I plan on doing a recap post of the whole experience and the ways in which the books compare and contrast with one another that will run sometime early next week. Be sure to stay tuned if you’ve enjoyed these Giller Prize reviews!

The best thing for pain is work. It settles me. The lives of others.

These are words of Ashwin Rao, the protagonist of the novel written by Padma Viswanathan titled, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao. In an attempt to come to terms with the Air India bombing that occurred in 1985 and took the lives of three of his family members, Ashwin attempts to find relief in discussing the events with other surviving families. The book is set twenty years after the bombing and two suspects are currently on trial in Canada for taking the lives of 329 people. Getting to know these families isn’t an easy task, Ashwin must make them trust him, he must make them understand that although he’s unable to be a practising therapist in Canada, that they should feel comfortable talking to him. He spends hours with these families and then travels back to his hotel to transcribe his thoughts. He finds that putting it all on paper helps him process the experience he’s had as well as having documentation that will hopefully end up in the book he’s working on.

Extending his Canadian visit longer than he anticipated, Ashwin becomes deeply invested in one Canadian families fallout. By spending time getting to know individual members of this family, Ashwin really sees the affects of grief and how process grief in their own individual ways. Suicide attempts, finding a religion that helps provide some insight, sex, etc… This family is clearly broken and as he starts to write down his impressions and his revelations, he begins to face his own heartbreak and grief. Sadly, as many of us know, it can sometimes be easier to invest energy in other people’s live than your own (see above quote).

I had the opportunity to speak with Padma Viswanathan back in March of 2014 and she shared with me that because the trial for the Air India bombing ended so inconclusively, she became interested in the idea of one man, a physics professor, becoming attached to a guru to help provide some sort of meaning. Ultimately, this become one of the main characters in the book named Seth. As she began to write this book and piece her story together, the Air India bombing started to become a thread of the story that tied everyone’s stories together. She also really wanted to examine the Canadian Indian community and the ways in which they have bonded with one another and become reliant on one another throughout the years.

Padma Viswanathan looks at a tragedy that unfortunately did occur in 1985 (more information here) and added a historical spin on it. Her exploration of grief, pain and healing is done in an sophisticated way that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time your reading. If you’re interested in cultural heritage and explorations of the inner workings of one family, you’ll love this book!

REMEMBER — The Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner will be announced on CBC Television on Monday, November 10 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT).

Did your Giller Prize invite get lost in the mail? Don’t fret. Come out and celebrate the event at your local Giller Light Bash. Parties will be taking place across the country in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax. Be sure to check out http://gillerlightbash.ca

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One thought on “Giller Reading Day 6: The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

  1. Naomi says:

    I didn’t know anything about this one until now. It sounds interesting and complex. Can’t wait to read your wrap-up! And congrats on getting through all the books so quickly!

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