by Gregory David Roberts

Overview: "It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas--this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love forIndia at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

Faith Bowers (01/21/18): This 900 page book kept me interested from the beginning. It is about the underbelly of Bombay, India in the early 1980s from the slums to the the crime lords and with that thier jail system. The story is told in the first person by the author. Throughout the book, you are sure it is an autobiography with the names changed, though it is a novel. I loved the details of the descriptions of life in the slums, life in a village and the way he made his livings. I did't like the descriptions of jail life. The wars and battles were exciting but were skimmed through at best. The beauty comes through the families that he meets and becomes a part in a loving India. The book was recommended by a friend who's father recommended it to her. This is very much a book for men in the style of Ken Follet's later adventure books.
Rating: ****

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