The Lost Sister is Andrea Gunraj’s second novel, which Harriet Alida Lye has declared to be “a finely crafted story about forgiveness and redemption between two sets of sisters, [a novel whose] beating heart is the longing that comes from missing someone you love.”
Briny Books: What’s the part of your book that you’re most proud of—the scene you can’t believe you pulled off, the part you most want to highlight, the passage you’d like to enclose in brackets with a note underlined: I WROTE THIS?
Andrea Gunraj: The scene where the character Alisha goes into the woods to find an important place related to her sister’s disappearance. I pictured it in my mind for a while but didn’t think I could make it interesting or particularly readable. But I thought it was really important to have that moment. It took a lot of writing and re-writing to get it to the place it is now but I think it works well in the flow of the story now.
Briny Books: Was there a part of your narrative that surprised you as your book came together, suggesting that the author isn’t always completely in charge of her work and something deeper and weirder is going on?
Andrea Gunraj: There were a few scenes that definitely seemed to “write themselves.” They were the places I spent least time on writing and editing but seemed to be the strongest parts of the story. That really surprised me as I rarely write well on the first pass and have to do a lot of finessing to make something read better.
Briny Books: Public readings (and learning to do them) are a big part of an author’s experience. But is there a part of your book that you know you’ll never have the nerve to read out loud?
Andrea Gunraj: The scenes that depict abuse are not ones that I would generally want to read out loud. They were hard for me to write and they are likely challenging to read. They’re important to the story, but I think they are for silent reading.
Briny Books: What has been your favourite reader response to your book so far?
Andrea Gunraj: I very much appreciate the early readers who volunteered their time to provide quotes for the cover. It was kind of them and they didn’t have to do it. They are all talented writers I admire and to get a positive review from them was truly wonderful.
Briny Books: What book(s) is/are you reading at the moment?
Andrea Gunraj: Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry.
We asked Andrea Gunraj, author of The Lost Sister, to name three books she considers essential titles, the books that come to mind first when she’s asked to recommend an excellent read.
Family Life, by Akhil Sharma
Winner of the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award
Hailed as a “supreme storyteller” (Philadelphia Inquirer) for his “cunning, dismaying and beautifully conceived” fiction (New York Times), Akhil Sharma is possessed of a narrative voice “as hypnotic as those found in the pages of Dostoyevsky” (The Nation). In his highly anticipated second novel, Family Life, he delivers a story of astonishing intensity and emotional precision.
We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.
Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.
Dogs at the Perimeter, by Madeleine Thien
Set in Cambodia during the regime of the Khmer Rouge and in present-day Montreal, Dogs at the Perimeter tells the story of Janie, who as a child experiences the terrible violence carried out by the Khmer Rouge and loses everything she holds dear. Three decades later, Janie has relocated to Montreal, although the scars of her past remain visible. After abandoning her husband and son, Janie takes refuge in the home of her friend, the scientist Hiroji Matsui. Janie and Hiroji find solace in their shared grief and pain–until Hiroji’s disappearance opens old wounds, and Janie finds that she must struggle to find grace in a world overshadowed by the sorrows of her past.
Beautifully realized, deeply affecting, Dogs at the Perimeter evokes the injustice of tyranny through the eyes of a young girl and draws a remarkable map of the mind’s battle with memory, loss, and the horrors of war. It confirms Madeleine Thien as one of the most gifted and powerful novelists writing today.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. It is also the story of an important year of discovery in the life of young Cassie Logan.
The anticipated sophomore novel from the celebrated author of The Sudden Disappearance of Seetha, which Quill & Quire called “an exciting, memorable debut.” Partially inspired by the real-life experiences of a former resident of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, The Lost Sister bravely explores the topics of child abuse, neglect, and abduction against a complex interplay of gender, race, and class dynamics.
Alisha and Diana are young sisters living at Jane and Finch, a Toronto suburb full of immigrants trying to build new lives in North America. Diana, the eldest, is the light of the little family, the one Alisha longs to emulate more than anyone else. But when Diana doesn’t come home one night and her body is discovered in the woods, Alisha becomes haunted. She thinks she knows who did it, but can’t tell anyone about it.
Unable to handle the loss of their daughter and unaware of Alisha’s secret guilt, the family unravels. It’s only through an unusual friendship with Paula, an older woman who volunteers at her school, that Alisha finds reprieve. Once an orphan in the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children and estranged from her own sister, Paula helps Alisha understand that the chance for redemption and peace only comes with facing difficult truths.