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The Association of Small Bombs
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Archive: Other Books > The Association of Small bombs by Karan Mahajan - 4 stars

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Booknblues | 5496 comments Wow! I'm going to do the opposite of usual and instead of deliberating a few days or forever to do my review, I'm going to quickly write the review using my initial reactions to The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan. The bombs might be small but this is a heavily laden novel. While it's title clearly is a give away that it is about one of the most discussed and politically charged topics of our time - terror, it is about so much more. It is about family relationships, grief, friendship, forgiveness and in this novel these are all messy and can weigh the reader down.

In 1996, Mansoor, a twelve year old Muslim boy along with his two Hindu friends Tushar and Nakul are in a marketplace when it is bombed. Tushar and Nakul are killed and Mansoor injured walks home. Thus begins the odyssey of Mansoor and his family and Tushar and Nakul's family the Khuranas. There is so much tragedy and pain in this book as all the characters attempt to move past that horrible day in 1976, that I had to put it down and read two books in between, one of which was a nonfiction about Warsaw during WWII.

It is little wonder that The Association of Small Bombs has made the longlist for the National Book Awards, it is a multilayered story of meaning, misery and import. I found myself highlighting many passages in this book and had trouble deciding which to share. Here are a few:

"When things are good, you can see no other way of living; when things are in ruins, there appear a million solutions for how this fate could have been avoided."

"Descending into bitterness, surrounded by the braying, pointing, mocking audience of his family, he had become attached to his own pain. He did not want to make changes because that would mean losing his precious exchequer of bitterness."

"He thought about who he actually was: a mild person, brought up with firm good Muslim values, someone who thrived not on pursuing individual pleasures, but on being among people like himself, living a life of moderation: praying, exercising, thinking healthy thoughts. The more he realized the connection between the mind and the brain, the more he wished to keep his mind clean. If you had horrible thoughts, if you carried rage against your parents and sexual fury against women in your head, as he had—how could you be healthy, happy? Your body imploded. You became the bomb."

"I realized you could go days without seeing an old person. Where are they? I asked my brother. Why aren’t there old people in New York?” He looked at Mansoor. “They’re all in retirement homes, of course. Hidden away from sight the way dead people are immediately put in a morgue or buried. In America, you see, you’re not supposed to take care of the elderly. You’re supposed to look after yourself, chase your dreams. But what happens when you grow old? Will your individualism save you? No—you’ll be put away like the dead. In America, you see, you die twice—once when you grow old, and once when you actually die."


The Association of Small Bombs is an important but difficult read. I know that I will be thinking about it for some time to come.


message 2: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen | 1545 comments great review. I have this on my list


Booknblues | 5496 comments I think the key to reading this, is finding the right time. Definitely not after other emotionally heavy reading.


 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 1944 comments I've only recently heard of this book. It looks like it could be interesting if you read it at the right time.


message 5: by Denizen (new) - added it

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments It's on my must read list but that continually grows more onerous. I'm still working towards Five and Twenty-fives.


Booknblues | 5496 comments Denizen wrote: "It's on my must read list but that continually grows more onerous. I'm still working towards Five and Twenty-fives."

I found this more difficult than Five and Twenty-fives, but I think that it because of where my sympathy lies and what I can identify with.

At one point, I felt an oppressive negativity in this, but since finishing it, I have been able to identify the positive feelings that this puts forward.


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