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No Other World
Cover of No Other World
No Other World
A Novel

From the author of the prize-winning collection Quarantine, an insightful, compelling debut novel set in rural America and India in the 1980s and '90s, part coming-of-age story about a gay Indian American boy, part family saga about an immigrant family's struggles to find a sense of belonging, identity, and hope.

In a rural community in Western New York, twelve-year-old Kiran Shah, the American-born son of Indian immigrants, longingly observes his prototypically American neighbors, the Bells. He attends school with Kelly Bell, but he's powerfully drawn—in a way he does not yet understand—to her charismatic father, Chris.

Kiran's yearnings echo his parents' bewilderment as they try to adjust to a new world. His father, Nishit Shah, a successful doctor, is haunted by thoughts of the brother he left behind. His mother, Shanti, struggles to accept a life with a man she did not choose—her marriage to Nishit was arranged—and her growing attachment to an American man. Kiran is close to his older sister, Preeti—until an unexpected threat and an unfathomable betrayal drive a wedge between them that will reverberate through their lives.

As he leaves childhood behind, Kiran finds himself perpetually on the outside—as an Indian American torn between two cultures and as a gay man in a homophobic society. In the wake of an emotional breakdown, he travels to India, where he forms an intense bond with a teenage hijra, a member of India's ancient transgender community. With her help, Kiran begins to pull together the pieces of his broken past.

Sweeping and emotionally complex, No Other World is a haunting meditation on love, belonging, and forgiveness that explores the line between our responsibilities to our families and to ourselves, the difficult choices we make, and the painful cost of claiming our true selves.

From the author of the prize-winning collection Quarantine, an insightful, compelling debut novel set in rural America and India in the 1980s and '90s, part coming-of-age story about a gay Indian American boy, part family saga about an immigrant family's struggles to find a sense of belonging, identity, and hope.

In a rural community in Western New York, twelve-year-old Kiran Shah, the American-born son of Indian immigrants, longingly observes his prototypically American neighbors, the Bells. He attends school with Kelly Bell, but he's powerfully drawn—in a way he does not yet understand—to her charismatic father, Chris.

Kiran's yearnings echo his parents' bewilderment as they try to adjust to a new world. His father, Nishit Shah, a successful doctor, is haunted by thoughts of the brother he left behind. His mother, Shanti, struggles to accept a life with a man she did not choose—her marriage to Nishit was arranged—and her growing attachment to an American man. Kiran is close to his older sister, Preeti—until an unexpected threat and an unfathomable betrayal drive a wedge between them that will reverberate through their lives.

As he leaves childhood behind, Kiran finds himself perpetually on the outside—as an Indian American torn between two cultures and as a gay man in a homophobic society. In the wake of an emotional breakdown, he travels to India, where he forms an intense bond with a teenage hijra, a member of India's ancient transgender community. With her help, Kiran begins to pull together the pieces of his broken past.

Sweeping and emotionally complex, No Other World is a haunting meditation on love, belonging, and forgiveness that explores the line between our responsibilities to our families and to ourselves, the difficult choices we make, and the painful cost of claiming our true selves.

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About the Author-
  • Rahul Mehta's debut short story collection, Quarantine, won a Lambda Literary Award and the Asian American Literary Award for Fiction. His work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Sun, New Stories from the South, the New York Times Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, Marie Claire India, and other publications. An Out magazine "Out 100" honoree, he lives in Philadelphia with his partner and their dog, and teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 13, 2017
    In this meandering coming-of-age novel, Mehta (Quarantine) follows a gay Indian-American man’s struggle to quell his childhood demons. Though 12-year-old Kiran’s parents are assimilated enough to fuel their traditional puja lamp with Crisco rather than ghee, he still doesn’t quite fit. Instead of taking the bus from school, “he walked. Two hours. Three hours. Sometimes four.” When Kiran’s sister, Preeti, begins dating a white kid, Shawn, he listens to their phone calls, delighted by how Shawn’s voice runs through his “small boy body, resonating, filling his chest.” He begins his own, proto-sexual relationship with Shawn, and because of it does nothing when he finds nearly naked Preeti in the woods, where Shawn left her tied to a tree with a jump rope. The relationship between Kiran’s guilt and his sexuality becomes evident as the story continues with his struggles in college and adulthood, when his parents force him to return to India following his “unraveling” in New York. But Mehta’s discursive style allows little room to dwell on Kiran’s quest for redemption, and instead follows the lesser dramas that bloat the book. All of the characters do share with Kiran “the desire, if only fleeting, to live another life,” one where they had made different choices, but little is added by each, in turn, being forced to accept the impossibility of doing so. As Kiran writes in his coming-out letter to his parents, “things are the way they are.”

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2016
    Members of an Indian immigrant family in upstate New York struggle with their individual fates and burdens over two decades. This novel opens by setting two scenes: in 1985, a boy named Kiran Shah is spying on his neighbors across the road, the Bells, hinting at traumatic events that have transpired in the recent past and others that will occur in the future; and in 1998, in western India, Kiran, now a young adult visiting relatives, meets two members of the transgender caste, hijras, who come to the door. All of this will be spun out in succeeding sections that move back and forth in time and place to follow several narrative threads. Dominating the early part of the book are the troubled connections between the Shahs and the Bells, which include both the adults and the children. Shanti Shah, unhappy in an arranged marriage and demeaning jobs as a housecleaner and a bank teller, is powerfully drawn to the blond pastor who lives across the way--and he's interested in her, too. Her daughter, Preeti, dates Shawn Bell, a boy who ends up sexually abusing both Shah children in incidents that resonate through the book, affecting the siblings' relationship and Kiran's coming-of-age as a gay man. The title of the novel refers to the notion that in another world, different choices might have been made, different lives might have played out--but there is no other world. That may be so, but the book's very omniscient narrator spends a lot of time telling us what didn't happen, what the characters aren't thinking, didn't notice, or can't know yet. This commentary ultimately begins to smudge the sharpness of what does happen. Mehta's (Quarantine, 2011) ambitious novel follows a well-received collection of short stories; he is a writer worth watching. Good, if muffled by an overcomplicated structure and a talky narrator.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2016
    The winner of Lambda and Asian American literary awards for Quarantine, also honored by ALA's Over the Rainbow Committee, Mehta tells the story of Kiran Shah, who as a teenager struggles to adjust to America and his homosexuality. Later, he finds closeness and healing with a teenage hijra, a member of India's ancient transgender community.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2017

    Having moved halfway across the world, the Shahs contend with life in western New York in the 1980s and 1990s. A father, mother, brother, and sister all grapple with secrets and desires that draw them toward their American neighbors, while their Indian culture and the family they left behind maintain a hold on them. At the center of the family is Kiran, a young boy coming to terms with his sexuality. Told in third person, this is an intimate meditation on the occurrences that shape us as people and the immigrant experience in the United States. Tiny details-the print on a bedspread, the tassel on a pristine loafer-fully immerse readers in the Shahs' world. Mehta deftly draws each perspective, carefully laying bare the distance between the characters' desires and their actions. While this novel focuses on Kiran's growth, it also illuminates the points of view of his family members, ultimately providing a more complete picture of the protagonist's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Though there is some explicit content, it is never prurient, and mature teenage readers will see it as simply a piece of the puzzle that is Kiran. VERDICT The meticulously detailed tale of one Indian family, this is at once a character study and a universal immigrant story. For fans of literary fiction.-Erinn Black Salge, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Shelf Awareness "Like Tom Perrotta, Mehta digs into suburban angst and household secrets with insight and humor.... A family saga for the 21st century, No Other World journeys into daunting horizons to discover the familiar."
  • Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies "No Other World is deeply satisfying, a novel so moving that I worried about its main characters for weeks after I finished reading it. Rahul Mehta is a writer with astonishing emotional subtlety and generosity; I loved this beautiful book."
  • George Saunders, author of Tenth of December "What a compelling, magical, big-hearted, lyrical book. Rahul Mehta is an expansive and mesmerizing talent—he sees things generously, from all angles, and makes the reader care, and feel, deeply."
  • Brian Leung, author of Take Me Home "No Other World is a tough and touching master class on being. Kiran's life is a remarkable catalogue of the many brands of love, some painful, some nourishing, all of them necessary."
  • Bharati Mukherjee, author of Jasmine "No Other World is a profound and engrossing family saga about the immigrant experience. Mehta is a confident, empathic storyteller, his rendering of brutal scenes of pain, lust and love on two continents is fearless but forgiving, and this is just his début novel. I impatiently await his next."
  • Booklist (starred review) "Mehta uses vivid, memorable imagery to present likable, complex characters...and shimmering descriptions of emotionally resonant moments."
  • Lambda Book Report "The power of No Other World is how inextricably bound to this world Mehta's characters are, and yet how untethered and restless they inevitably feel...I want to catch all of Mehta's precious metaphors and store them in my palms... Mehta's artfulness is the deep empathy with which we nevertheless regard his characters, forced to live in small worlds they're not fit for, worlds that cannot contain their complexities."
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A Novel
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