The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
(Picador, 2015)

The Year of the Runaways

by Sunjeev Sahota

“All you can do is surrender, happily, to its power” – Salman Rushdie

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 desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the chaotic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.

Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, Sunjeev Sahota’s generous, unforgettable novel is - as with Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance - a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Reviews

Told in the most intimate of ways, not theorised but deeply felt . . . Sahota is a writer who knows how to turn a phrase, how to light up a scene, how to make you stay up late at night to learn what happens next. This is a novel that takes on the largest questions and still shines in the smallest details. Sahota moves some of the most urgent political questions of the day away from rhetorical posturing and contested statistics and into the realm of humanity. The Year of the Runaways is a brilliant and beautiful novel.”
- Kamila Shamsie Guardian
An ideal antidote to a year of reductive discussions of immigration, Sunjeev Sahota's novel takes you deep into the lives of a group of Indian labourers thrown together in Sheffield. Deftly shifting in time and place, Sahota builds a portrait of the often painful circumstances that lead these men to abandon life in India for this cold, damp city, in the hope of starting afresh. This is Sahota's second novel. His first, Ours Are the Streets, was an acutely observed story of a young man's shift from ordinary British Pakistani teenager to Muslim radical. The Year of the Runaways is no less accomplished in its lyrical prose and ability to immerse the reader in the experiences of a hidden community in Britain . . . It is a testament to Sahota's accomplished characterisation that he maintains sympathy with the men even after they commit crimes and take advantage of others ”
- Emily Dugan Independent on Sunday
This massive book, stuffed with compelling stories, rich in characters and resoundingly authentic in its detailing of life in the harsh underbelly of this country, should be compulsory reading. A magnificent achievement”
- Daily Mail
The Year of the Runaways takes place in a parallel England, a near-invisible world that rarely intersects with our own. It is familiar territory from news reports, but only in outline. Sahota has a lot to say and he says it calmly, with great moral intelligence . . . deeply impressive.”
- Sunday Times
Novels of such scope and invention are all too rare; unusual, too, are those of real heart, whose characters you grow to love and truly care for. The Year of the Runaways has it all… Sunjeev Sahota is an absolutely wonderful writer. It is amazing that this book, so rich, so absorbing, so deftly executed, should be only his second. I doubt if I'll read a better novel this year. ”
- Cressida Connolly, Spectator
"The Grapes of Wrath" for the 21st century”
- The Washington Post
A sensitive and searing novel.”
- Marian Ryan, Mail on Sunday
This is a rich, intricate, beautifully written novel, bursting and seething with energy. ”
- The Times
Nothing short of an asteroid impact would have made me put the book down ”
- Irish Times
[Sahota] is a wonderfully subtle writer who makes what he leaves unsaid as important as the words on the page. A wise and compassionate observer of humanity, he has gone to some dark places – places we would all rather not think about – to bring us this book. Whether we are prepared to extend a measure of his wisdom and compassion to real immigrants, in the real world, is another question.”
- New Statesman