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Burnt Sugar: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, a searing literary debut novel set in India about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal
NPR Best Book of 2020
“I would be lying if I say my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,” says Antara, Tara’s now-adult daughter.
In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her marriage to join an ashram, and while Tara is busy as a partner to the ashram’s spiritual leader, Baba, little Antara is cared for by an older devotee, Kali Mata, an American who came to the ashram after a devastating loss. Tara also embarks on a stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents) and spends years chasing a disheveled, homeless artist, all with young Antara in tow. But now Tara is forgetting things, and Antara is an adult––an artist and married––and must search for a way to make peace with a past that haunts her as she confronts the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.
Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds mother and daughter. Is Tara’s memory loss real? Are Antara’s memories fair? In vivid and visceral prose, Tibor Jones South Asia Prize–winning writer Avni Doshi tells a story, at once shocking and empathetic, about love and betrayal between a mother and a daughter. A journey into shifting memories, altering identities, and the subjective nature of truth, Burnt Sugar is a stunning and unforgettable debut.
About the Author
Avni Doshi was born in New Jersey. She received her BA in art history from Barnard College and her MA in history of art at University College, London. While working as an art writer and curator in India, Doshi began writing fiction. She has been awarded the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize and a Charles Pick Fellowship. Her debut novel, Burnt Sugar, was shortlisted for the prestigious TATA Literature Award upon its publication in India and has now been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Avni Doshi currently lives in Dubai with her family.
“Avni Doshi isn’t just a talented writer, she is an artist. She knows the difference between a line and shade — both start the same way, but intention and style inform their difference. Doshi’s sentences are sharply drawn and devastatingly precise. There is never a wasted word, no debris, no flourish to hide behind. A voice this unadorned, and blunt, is so hauntingly stubborn and original, you want to hear from it again and again.”—New York Times Book Review
“Burnt Sugar is a work of extraordinary insight, courage and sophistication…It’s not that Doshi has written something no one has ever thought before; it’s that she’s written something no one has ever expressed so exquisitely — and so baldly.”—The Washington Post
“I read Burnt Sugar with awe, fury and compassion, electrified by the question of whether time does heal all wounds, and whether it even should."—Catherine Whelan, editor, NPR Morning Edition
“Avni Doshi is a writer of surgical precision and sharp intelligence. This novel of mother-and-daughter resentments and the deep, intimate cuts of ancient family history gleams like a blade—both dangerous and beautiful. I loved it.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic
“Burnt Sugar is absolutely exquisite.” —Diksha Basu, author of Destination Wedding
“Acerbic, full of wit and cool intelligence, but also brilliantly poetic and passionate—every sentence is a coiled spring.”—Olivia Sudjic, author of Exposure and Sympathy
“Avni Doshi writes fearlessly, with a cruel, almost terrifying intelligence. I was discomfited and exhilarated by it.” —Meng Jin, author of Little Gods
“A courageous novel written in spare, gleaming sentences. It made me hold my breath and gather it up again.”—Tishani Doshi, author of Small Days and Nights
“Raw, wise, and cuttingly funny.”—Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Starling Days
“Burnt Sugar is an unsettling, sinewy debut, startling in its venom and disarming in its humor from the very first sentence.” —Guardian
“Doshi’s prose is arresting and her ideas fiercely intelligent.” —Sunday Times
“Doshi’s visceral debut is a no-holds-barred excavation of how hate can both poison and sustain.” —Daily Mail
“A corrosive, compulsive debut.” —Daily Telegraph
“An intelligent debut, deserving of its Booker shortlisting, Burnt Sugar is sorrowful, skeptical, and electrifyingly truthful about mothers and daughters.”—Guardian, Book of the Day
“Doshi’s portrayal of troubled mother-daughter intimacy is viscerally poetic. This has the heft and expansiveness of a classic 19th-century novel.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED review
“a landmark portrait of toxic parenting and its tangled aftermath ... Dark emotions color a daughter’s complex connection to her mother in a striking first novel that delves deep into family bonds.”—Kirkus STARRED review
“The words in Avni Doshi’s “Burnt Sugar” hit you like a bullet... Regardless of your cultural background, “Burnt Sugar” will pulse with an addictive and thrilling energy. Every sentence is a treasure to read and brings you one step closer to yourself, even though you didn’t ask for it.”—Michigan Daily
“Burnt Sugar is an incredible novel with messages and characters that remain with its reader far beyond the final line.”—New York Journal of Books
“With a tightly controlled narrative voice and careful use of flashbacks … This is a layered, descriptive, at times distasteful novel that brings us face to face with our own darker impulses and deep-seated traumas.”—Chicago Review of Books
“Impressively assured…It’s the mother’s selfishness and instability that makes Antara such a complex character, hypersensitive, anxious and filled with rage.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle