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The Association of Small Bombs

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  13,242 ratings  ·  1,528 reviews

When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, go to pick up their family’s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb—one of the many “small” bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world—detonates in the Delhi marketplace, insta
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 22nd 2016 by Viking
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Reuben Trane This book is so enlightening into the minds and experiences of both the terrorists AND the victims (and their families). Should be required reading fo…moreThis book is so enlightening into the minds and experiences of both the terrorists AND the victims (and their families). Should be required reading for anyone interested in what is happening in the world today.(less)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,242 ratings  ·  1,528 reviews

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May 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
This was my May 2016 pick for Book of the Month Club. And while I didn't absolutely love this book, I'm glad I chose this one simply because it was a book I might not have picked up otherwise. It tells the story of a "small" bombing (car bomb) that takes place in an Indian market one day and follows the effects it has on multiple people, including victims, their families, and even the terrorists who set off the bomb.

If you're looking for a book with one narrative thread, with action that rises a
Larry H
Dec 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars on this one.

"And you know what happens when a bomb goes off? The truth about people comes out."

Dense and well-told, although a bit meandering, Karan Mahajan's The Association of Small Bombs is a thought-provoking look at the causes and effects of terrorism, the human cost even "small" bombs can exact, and how a terrorist can be "grown."

One day in 1996, two young boys, Tushar and Nakul Khurana, are sent by their father to a crowded Delhi market to pick up
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who can feel still beats.
"Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
A A Milne

It is, in many ways, both a comforting and disturbing thought that events of negligible weight, often elevate to gargantuan heights, lighting and dimming our lives from the perennial chandeliers of memory and reflection. Try as hard as we may, the rewards of life’s milestones condense invariably, and collect into a pool of small droplets, each recompensing the minutiae of living with something meaningful, if only te
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The bomb was a child, a tantrum directed against all things.”

When I started this novel, I was captivated, absorbed, thoroughly in awe of the author’s writing and the subject matter he was tackling. How often do we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the terrorists? We are often so appalled by the acts of terrorism happening around the globe we don’t delve deeply into the minds of the terrorists? What purpose are they working toward? What outcome do they expect? What events led up to their beco
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not perfect but brilliant. The scenes of grief are devastating and the portrait of the making of a terrorist fascinating. Interestingly, the intense lyrical beauty of the first half is mostly drained when depicting the hardening of the soul of a human being, a turn away from the beauty.

In the novel, the bomb becomes a metaphor for many things- as well as a thing in its own right, a devastation. The father of the victim feels himself becoming a bomb, feels himself torn apart in his grief. And the
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan is a 2016 Viking Books publication.

I’m on a kick this week, reading books that have been nominated for awards, mainly to branch out some and try new genres, to become better read, and expand my knowledge a little, but, also, I like to figure out why certain books catch the attention of critics, and to see if those books resonate with readers in the same way.

So far, it’s been a hit or miss with me. Only a few of these books have lived up to the hy
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
3 stars

I think I'm overdosing on war and terrorism, which are not the best subjects to be stuck on in these very volatile days of late. It's not necessarily Karan Mahajan's fault that his thought-provoking novel The Association of Small Bombs left me cold and wanting something else to read, but I can't bring myself to give this any more than 3 stars. It did, after all, make its way onto a few "Best of 2016" lists, and was even shortlisted for the National Book Award. It's got enough substance t
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“And you know what happens when a bomb goes off?” asks one of the bomb-makers at one significant point in this book. “The truth about people comes out.”

More than an explanation of why young activists are radicalized and more than a book about how the seeds of terrorism are sewn, The Association of Small Bombs focuses on the “truth about people.” In doing so, it claims its own niche.

In the opening pages, the Khuranas, a Hindu couple, lose their two young sons during a random small bomb blast in a
This book is a quick read about difficult subject matter. While the message is important, I was kind of lukewarm on the delivery and I never really got into the book. At times it was interesting, but there were a lot of other times I found my attention wandering.

Any story about religion and terrorism has the potential to be riveting. What I think is the most interesting about this one is that it takes place primarily in India and addresses the Hindi/Muslim conflict. I am more familiar with stori
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
I struggled a little with this one - perhaps I just chose a bad time to read it, but for me this story of minor acts of terrorism in Delhi and their repercussions for their victims never quite coalesced and I never felt fully engaged with the characters. I don't want to be too harsh on it, but I don't have much to say about it either.

I should have mentioned that I read it because it is being discussed this month in the 21st Century Literature group.
Timothy Urges
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Required reading for all Americans.

Who are the true victims of terrorism?
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Dull is the word I would use to describe this read.
The premise is certainly interesting - two young brothers die in a bomb blast in Delhi, while a third friend accompanying them survives with minor injury.
The book then traces the after effects of this explosion on the family of the boys killed, on the surviving friend and his family, and on the bomb planters themselves.

However, the author flips between these multiple view points so often, I could neither focus on the story as a whole, nor develo
Jessica Sullivan
In the wake of a horrific act of terrorism, it’s all too easy to write off those responsible as inhuman monsters. In The Association of Small Bombs, Karan Mahajan challenges us to dig deeper and see that they are human, to understand the chain of events that might transform someone into a perpetrator of an unspeakable crime, and to consider all who are affected by these tragedies.

We begin with a bombing of a Delhi marketplace in 1996. Two young boys, Tushar and Nakul, are among the dead, but the
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't an easy book to read given the global terrorism issues of today but at the same time I found that the language of the author was so easy to read. The India of 1996 and the years following the bomb blast that kicks off this extraordinary novel are so well described. The culture of superiority in both wealth and religion and the deep rooted shame that both bring about in people is brilliantly depicted here and my favourite line was:
"The roots of shame run deep".

I will look for more to
3. 5
This was a hard book for me to rate. I liked the writing and what I learned from it but I did not like most of the characters or the sense of hopelessness it left behind. This is the second Indian novel I've read in the last month (Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line) and I actually liked this one more but both have left me feeling that there is no chance of real progress for this country. And I do not know how realistic this message of hopelessness is. This novel addressed violence and intolera
Anita Pomerantz
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I appreciated what this author attempted to do (and largely did successfully) with this novel, but unfortunately it didn't make for a fun reading experience. The book interweaves the stories of a victims of terrorism with perpetrators of terrorism without passing any moral judgements. We aren't even introduced the the character I would consider to be the main character, Ayub, until well into the story. He goes from being an activist to something more (a terrorist? a pawn of terrorists? ), but th ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

I feel conflicted about how I should go about discussing this book.

Parts I loved. I thought the prose and general writing style were very strong. I felt an immediate connection to most of the characters.

But oh my goodness the misogyny. I am NOT saying that the author in any way appears to be condoning misogynistic behavior/attitudes. But there's just so much of it on the page. I found it exhausting.

I just didn't want to spend any time with the characters that dominated the second half o
I wish I had read this in print rather than listened to the audio. The audio is well done but I often wanted to look back at earlier parts of the book to check on names and connections. My goal for today was to finish the last two of the five books on the 2016 National Book Award Fiction shortlist. This audiobook took awhile because I was doing a bicycle tour with a bunch of other people for a week and had to pay attention to the route. And that may have been a good thing, because I found the bo ...more
Helen Marquis
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really engrossing novel about the ripple effects that a small bomb in a Delhi market has on a number of families - from the parents of the two young boys who are two of the small number of victims on the day, to their best friend who somehow survives but is left with physical and psychological scars, to the friends he goes on to make and their increasing radicalisation.
The writing is really evocative, taking you to the dusty streets of India and immersing you in the everyday chaos and then the
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mcl
I hardly know what to say about this book except that I love it. At first I thought the prose might be a little too purple but the longer I read, the more I appreciated the descriptions. This book examines a selection of people involved in a terrorist bombing in a street market in Delhi: two of the victims, a survivor, their families, and the terrorists who set off the bomb. How these lives intertwine and affect each other lead to a surprising result.
Sep 18, 2017 added it
Shelves: university
10/10 Last Year's Novel module. ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
In May of 1996, in a marketplace in Delhi, India, a small car bomb goes off, killing thirteen and wounding many others. Mahajan examines this bombing from many angles: the bomb maker, the victims, their families and the aftermath.

Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two young Hindu boys, are headed to the market to pick up a repaired tv set for their father. They are supposed to drop off their friend Mansoor Ahmed, the only son of a wealthy, overprotective Muslim couple, at his home first, but the boys ta
Conor Ahern
Not sure what all the hype is about. "Small Bombs" was entertaining. The plot had a lot of potential, I just don't think it lived up to it. With a few hundred more pages, I might have compared this to The Sympathizer, but because things were only developed sufficient to tell a coherent (though spare) story, it falls a bit short of that mark. ...more
Wendy Cosin
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
The first five pages of The Association of Small Bombs is a narrative that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the novel. A terrorist bombing in a crowded Dehli market kills two Hindu brothers and injures their Muslim friend. Karan Mahajan describes the tumult of the market and the results of the bombing; we meet the parents of the dead children and see their immediate psychological reaction to their loss.

Excerpt: “Back in the market, people collapsed, then got up, their hands pressed to th
Loring Wirbel
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this brief and surreal novel - the author's second - Karan Mahajan probes the illogic driving catastrophist terrorism, and the damage done to three families over the course of 15 years. The book confounds expectations by not attempting to delve into those choosing violence through a path of devoutness. In fact, Islam is only present in the book in order to demonstrate how residents of Delhi and India at large make assumptions about Muslim citizens, the sort of assumptions that drive the BJP, ...more
Steven Z.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is safe to say that most of us accept the fact that we live in a world where terrorists can plant bombs or blow themselves up at any time and probably any place. When these events occur we are horrified whether it is in Boston, Paris, Istanbul, or elsewhere. We tend to devote our attention to the victims of terror, and less so to the thoughts and appeal that is exerted on the terrorists themselves. In Karan Mahajan’s powerful second novel, THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL BOMBS the reader experiences ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
3.5 Stars
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book of our times. Much has been said about how this book follows the aftermath of a bombing in Delhi but it also explores radicalisation and gets into the minds of terrorists in a way I have never read before. This book is not what I thought it was going to be; it was better. The writing style was so simple and the book's not particularly quotable but Mahajan packs all the impact into the story and characters. Very impressive. ...more
Oct 13, 2016 marked it as dnf
This is due back at the library and I am having a REALLY hard time connecting to the writing so I gotta DNF this because I know I won't finish before I have to return it ...more
Sep 16, 2017 added it
Shelves: university
9/10 Last Year's Novel/ Contemporary Lit Module ...more
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Karan Mahajan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, Family Planning, was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize and was published in nine countries. His second novel, The Association of Small Bombs, is a 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

Karan's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR’s All Things Considered, The New Yorker o

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