December 1995. Kerala, India. The Vallera family is preparing to celebrate Christmas Eve. Melvin Vallera's two young daughters, Anju and Linno, are about to be caught up in an event that will change both their lives, but has yet to take place. For a little while, things are exactly as they should be.
Such is the world evoked by Atlas of Unknowns, a shimmering debut novel about two sisters -- one in India, the other in America. A novel of sisterhood and family, it is also about the dream of America, a mythic place filled with tantalizing promise that Anju and Linno can only imagine. When the chance arises for one to attend school in New York, the fantasy begins to look more and more like reality. While Linno struggles to share her sister's happiness, Anju pictures the path of migration as an orbit, circling from India to the United States and back again, continuing until she's reached certain goals: an improved home for her family and a dowry for Linno. Busy with her dreams and comforted by their good intentions, she is able to forget -- for a moment -- that betrayal is the reason for her unexpected fortune.
Combining the themes so artfully developed in Atonement and Brick Lane, James employs vibrant storytelling, memorable characters, and an engrossing plot to showcase her singular new voice in fiction. (Summer 2009 Selection)