Ruby's Reviews > The Death of Vishnu

The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
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's review
Aug 03, 2011

I enjoyed this book so much. The imagery, smells, flavors, and high-pitched voices of opinionated women all ring clear and true through the book.

Vishnu is a homeless man who is allowed to live on the balcony of a building in Mumbai as long as he stays clean and does the odd job for the other tenants. When he is obviously dying, the true nature of the tenants comes out as they bicker over who will by his potential hospital bills, clean up after him when he looses bodily function, and who tries to win some easy karma points by brining him food.

At the same time, one of the husbands begins a descent into possible mental illness where he starts to believe that Vishnu is the incarnate of the real Vishnu, and they all the tenants should worship him and take care of him in his last days to reach enlightenment. Vishnu, in his fevered state, overhears some of this, and starts to believe it himself.

In a city where people are packed in closer than any of us who grew up in the west can imagine, this is a colorful and engaging book about the interaction of people who have to live with each other for better or worse, in a place where privacy is a luxary that almost no one can afford.

One of my favorite things about the book is that at the end it is extremely unclear who was insane, who was lying, and who just plain wanted to cause trouble. Tensions between Hindu and Muslim Indians run high throughout the book, with the ending being the pinnacle of the conflict.

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