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Shantaram    by Gregory David Roberts order for
by Gregory David Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

This book is about a man who fell in love with Bombay. Lin is a New Zealander who is able to make his way easily among the tourists. But he is also a fugitive from prison, and his knowledge of crime and those who practice it allow him entrée to the vast Bombay underworld. Most importantly, his facility for languages and nonjudgmental point of view towards all enable him to live well among the various peoples in that city, including slum inhabitants shunned by Indians themselves.

As complex as Bombay is, so is this story. Simply put, Bombay is the place where Lin learns what love, honor, commitment and forgiveness entail. His education comes with much horror, violence, and many examples of living and dying under the harshest conditions imaginable. Throughout, Roberts makes his story come alive as only a gifted and knowledgeable writer can. The book jacket states that the story is based on the writer's life, and indeed, it is hard to tell where the fiction begins. The author continually draws lessons and meaning for himself and us in the adventures and stories of which he is a part.

Shantaram means 'man of peace', a name given to Lin by a simple village woman early in the story. It takes Lin all of the 900 pages of this book and probably then some to become that person. Believe me, accompanying him on this journey is something you will not regret, and it is easy to understand why this book has found such favor in Australia and New Zealand, where it was first published.

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