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Book Review :: Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Western Lane, Chetna Maroo’s debut, Booker-Prize-shortlisted novel, follows Gopi, a British Indian teenager after the death of her mother. Before her mother’s death, her father had been taking her and her two sisters to Western Lane to play squash, but the game was nothing more than a hobby.

After the funeral, their father takes it much more seriously, mainly due to their Aunt Ranjan’s complaint that the girls are wild and need discipline. While her two sisters lose interest in the game, Gopi becomes obsessed with it, mainly as a way to build a connection with her father, but she also becomes quite good at it.

She is too good to play with her sisters, so she begins playing with Ged, a non-Indian boy whose mother works at Western Lane, a relationship that threatens to develop into something more. While her father grieves the death of her mother, Aunt Ranjan and Uncle Pavan offer to take in one of the girls to help him, which complicates Gopi’s burgeoning squash playing, as Aunt Ranjan thinks it’s unacceptable for a girl to participate in such a sport.

The novel is quiet and concise, as the characters and the narrator often leave what is most important unsaid, but readers can see the relationships fray and deepen as Gopi grows into a formidable player and teenage girl.

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels.

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