The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in search of a new life.
Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep has a visa wife in a flat on the other side of town. And Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar.
©2015 Sunjeev Sahota (P)2015 W F Howes Ltd
"All you can do is surrender, happily, to its power." (Salman Rushdie)
Very well written story about a part of our society we rather forget about. This book has given a voice to illegal immigrants living in the shadows. Highly recommended read.
Writer and audiobook reviewer.
This lengthy audiobook really makes you think about those desperate illegal 'runaways', exploited by loan sharks and escaping from the country of their birth to find a better life in England. That sounds like a polemical novel, but it's not that, it's a deeply compassionate, coruscating story of three young Indian men - Tochi, Randeep and Avtar - who are willing to suffer hideous hardship, intense loneliness and exploitation in order to work, work, work for a better life and support their families back 'home'.
These three men live in a squalid house in Sheffield with nine other Indian migrants, and the first part of the audiobook fills out their back stories in India. The details are filmic and vivid, and the characters burst out, helped by Sartaj Garewal's fluent narration and capture of accents. Tochi, an Untouchable in Bihar, finally manages to hire a rickshaw and scrapes a living as its driver to support his family after his father loses both arms in an accident. That is until atrocious massacres engulf his family and he is left with nothing. Randeep works nights in a bleak call centre and married troubled, British-born Narinder previously unknown to him in order to get into Britain. Avtar is told to 'follow the others' away from 'this benighted country' if he is to stand a chance of a better life - and sells one of his kidneys to help pay the loan sharks to finance his journey.
In England, their lives are grindingly harsh. They struggle to find work which will pay them a fraction of the minimum wage on hazardous construction sites, in factories and fast food outlets. They must earn enough to feed themselves - badly - and send money home to support their families and pay off the loan sharks. When Avtar is crippled with pain from complications following his kidney removal, he's too terrified to go to the doctor: discovery and police raids are a constant fear. But despite the undeniable misery of these men's lives, there is tremendous energy and vitality. It raises huge issues - made the more pertinent considering the vast numbers of refugees and migrants who have poured into Europe since this book was published in the summer - but never preaches or polemicizes. The message is in all the searing details.
Listen to it - your eyes will be opened and won't shut again.
Yes. Epic stories are always worth a few more listens/reads. Plus, I listen while I travel, cook, garden or do housework and sometimes might miss the key aspect of a particular scene.
Everything. It is a believable story. I grew up in the Midlands in a city with a diverse Indian community. I had Indian friends at school and have worked with Indians of different castes and the Indian culture has always fascinated me. So much so that as a child I enjoyed watching Indian films and series (if subtitled).
I am interested in the plight of Untouchables and so was interested in the experiences of Tochi.
This novel is full of moving moments. It was educative and immersive. As one who listens to talk radio and is saturated with anti-immigrant talk, I was reminded that illegal immigrants are human and do not risk life and limb and dehumanisation to access benefits.
Since listening to the book, I read Sunjeev Sahota's interview in The Guardian (12th December 2015). What a wonderful and empathic human being. A son any mother would be proud of.
The Year of the Runaways - mixed feelings about this book
I enjoyed the beginning of book going through the characters stories, but then it got s bit jumbled up & seemed to have lost what was going on with the characters themselves, it became a bit unbelievable .
Good narration by Sartaj Garewal
an eye opener of a story following 3 Indian men coming to England to find their fortune. and the woman who made it possible. Heartbreaking yet enlightening... unputdownable.
This is a great insight into Indian culture, although I am still baffled by a lot of the words.and terminology.
It's s little confusing at the start and took s while to draw me in, but none the less a good story.
I loved listening to mr Garewall narrating he really immersed the listener in the smells, sounds and life of these unfortunate people. After long listens I even found myself wanting to talk in a singsong Indian accent!
The story of the illegal immigrants is both harrowing as it is important to tell and I am very thankful that I am born into my comfortable life.
No. I enjoyed it but I won't read it again. I will recommend it to my book group, as it offers insight into immigrant life that we don't know but I believe we should be made aware of. It helped me understand the forces that drive immigration and the dreadful experiences and disappointments illegal immigrants face once they reach the UK.
The brutal murder of the family of an untouchable by higher caste members.
It made me feel guilty that such hardship and suffering was all around me and I knew nothing of it.
I had previously read Rose Tremain's book about Eastern European immigrants (The Road Home) but it is not as gut wrenching as this book. The immigrants in this book are hanging on by their fingernails to the most basic existence, -constantly searching for badly paid work, ripped off by landlords and traffickers, made ill and afraid to seek medical help, living in fear of any authority.. and yet able to make relationships and support each other.
An eye opener into the world of the Indian immigrant in the UK. I thought the characters were well rounded and there was humour despite the bareness of their lives. I feel educated as well as entertained by this book and Sartaj Garwal's narration is brilliant - his ability with accents delineates the characters clearly.
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