cover image The Spoiled Heart

The Spoiled Heart

Sunjeev Sahota. Viking, $29 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-65598-6

Sahota (China Room) returns with a beautifully constructed tale of a British Indian factory worker who attempts to find solace in his labor union and a new romance many years after losing his mother and son in a fire. Nayan Olak, 42, is running for general secretary of the union, which represents workers at the air conditioner factory in Chesterfied, England, where he’s dedicated his life. Megha Sharma, who’s also of Indian descent, opposes him in the race. Though either of them would be the organization’s first nonwhite general secretary, Megha positions herself as the “change candidate,” claiming their fellow workers of color need protection from hateful assaults like the recent one on a retail worker in their union. Nayan, with his “curdled charisma,” focuses his campaign on interracial working-class solidarity. Meanwhile, Nayan’s old acquaintance Helen Fletcher returns to Chesterfied from London with her teenage son, Brandon, who was fired from his job as a cook at a private school after his remarks to a Black student were misunderstood as racist. Nayan hires Brandon to help take care of his father, who has dementia, and attempts to befriend Helen. Though she initially brushes him off, they eventually begin a romantic relationship. Sahota fascinates with his nuanced and multifaceted depictions of race and class, and he weaves in plenty of suspense as the union election unfolds. This is electrifying. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)