CBR12Bingo – Debut (2020)
This is a 2020 debut novel from the Indian journalist Deepa Anappara. The novel takes place mostly on the outskirts of Mumbai as a group of school-age children seeks answers about a missing friend, whose name is soon added to a list of additional missing people. The novel primarily takes place in their small community neighborhood, the shops, the homes, and the school, but with various journeys more into the interior of the city looking for answers.
The novel is primarily structured in two ways: a first person narration from Jai, one of the children on the Djinn Patrol, who names his crew after his favorite television show Police Patrol as well as from his belief that the total disappearance of a whole, real person must be the work of evil djinns (a belief that is not actually a fully believed feeling), and from a series of short chapters told in a omniscient third person narrator telling background stories of other figures we come across in the novel in mythic and real encounters.
The novel is NOT a mystery in a genre way, and the style of the novel is carnivalesque in its approach (though it should be clear, not in a grotesque way). It’s clear that our child narrator is spending a lot of energy trying to make sense of a world that seems increasingly nonsensical. The book feels both brand new and also familiar. There’s a lot of Swami and Friends here, maybe mixed with some Scooby Doo. I think the only thing that I feel lacking here would be more of the city itself built up in ways that provide us a sense of how huge things are.