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From Barnes & NobleAt 600 pages, Mistry's stunning second novel looks intimidating, yet this moving tale of four people caught up in India's 1975 state of emergency -- when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution in order to hold on to power following a scandal -- is an incredibly detailed, compelling read that sweeps you along from the opening pages and is over far too soon.
Though it takes place in a time of political upheaval and chaos, A Fine Balance is not a political diatribe. Instead, it is a beautiful and compassionate portrait of the resiliency of the human spirit when faced with death, despair, and unconscionable suffering. Set in an unnamed city by the sea, it is the story of four disenfranchised strangers -- a widow, a young student, and two tailors -- who are forced by their impoverished circumstances to share a cramped apartment. Initially distrustful of one another, Dina, Maneck, Ishvar, and Om gradually build loving, familial bonds and learn together "to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair" in a society suddenly turned inhumanly cruel and corrupt.