Shantaram

Are there any books out there about heroine-addicted Australian prisoners who escape over the front wall of maximum-security prisons to Bombay in the 1970’s, and find themselves mixed up with slum-dwellers, Indian villagers, contract killers and a wise old philosopher/ mafia don (and then goes to fight the war in Afghanistan)?

Other than Shantaram, I mean, the nearly 1000-page (or 41 hour) epic that I just finished. I want another. Even if it was occasionally disgusting and horrifying and even if, today, as I was listening to the last half hour of the audiobook, it made me cry embarrassingly into my lunch, I would listen to Lin’s story continuously until I was so emotionally drained and depressed that I, too, think it is a good idea to pay three months rent on my apartment and forget my sorrows in an opium den.
It’s a good book, is what I’m saying. I enjoyed it.

Let me tell you about this book. There are 119 named characters, according to the Wikipedia entry titled Characters in Shantaram, and the author does not name people lightly. You have to be pretty damn important to warrant getting a name in Shantaram. I am not Indian or Muslim, or for that matter, African or Spanish or Swedish (it’s a multi-national cast) and therefore many of the names were a little hard to wrap my head around. Luckily the narrator spoke quite slowly so there was usually time to figure out whom, exactly, Khaled Ansari or Abdullah Taheri or Madjid Rhustem were before the plot left me behind.

I did not, however, figure out exactly which of the best friends was Maurizio and which one was Modena before one of them took a knife to the other one. I am recommending this book. Therefore it might seem odd that I would give away a major plot point like “Maurizio sliced Modena.” True, and yet… There are at least a hundred plot points more important than that one. (Even though at the time it seemed very important indeed!) There are also at least a hundred plot points less vital. There is a whole lot of plot going on. I have a really hard time describing the plot to anyone.

“There’s this guy Lin, and he’s a convict, and he goes to India, and he meets this one guy  Prabaker and then he meets this girl, and then… and then some stuff happens! Some crazy, wonderful, horrifying, disgusting, beautiful, fascinating stuff. Happens.”

If you have not gotten your free audiobook yet — And you do not have a weak stomach – I would really recommend getting this one.
Because then you can call me and be like “But then Khader! He… He… What just happened?” and I’ll be like “Yeah, right? I know!” And that will be great.

And here’s the link at Audible

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