The Secret History of Las Vegas

The Secret History of Las Vegas

by Chris Abani
The Secret History of Las Vegas

The Secret History of Las Vegas

by Chris Abani


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A gritty, riveting, and wholly original murder mystery from PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author and 2015 Edgar Awards winner Chris Abani

Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143124955
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Chris Abani is the acclaimed author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Hemingway/PEN Prize, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the Hurston Wright Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many honors. Born in Nigeria, he is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014  by Chris Abani


The dying sun burnished the copper ingot of the Mandalay Bay. Next to it was the pyramid of the Luxor and, reclining in front, the light catching the gold paint of its headdress, the Sphinx. Farther to Sunil’s left, the Bellagio and the tip of the Eiffel Tower rose above Paris Las Vegas. The Venetian, his favorite, was obscured.

He loved this moment when the sun was on a slow decline, just before the abruptness of night that seemed exclusive to deserts and plains. It reminded him of the light on the South African veld. One moment bright and full, the next, gone. The veld was just like its name, a stubby felt of grass and trees and small hills that seemed to break only when the green and brown rim of it touched the sky.

For one magical summer as a seven-year-old, he’d left Soweto behind on a summer trip to see his grandmother, Marie. She lived in KwaZulu, a homeland—one of those odd geographies created arbitrarily by the apartheid state as all black enclaves within South Africa. Not unlike Native American reservations, homelands were corrals, ways to contain and further impoverish native populations: entire settlements made up of shanties leaning unevenly into the wind.

Grandma Marie lived in the foothills, and as Sunil and his mother, Dorothy, traveled higher into the old Zulu territory, the shanties disappeared. Up there, everything felt different— the pace moved only as fast as the swaying fields of corn, or the lumbering herds of zebu that roamed everywhere, horns curved like arms raised in prayer. Each cow was marked so distinctively, in so many variations of red, white, black, brown, rust, and dun, that from a distance they looked like flocks of birds littering the grass on the hillsides.

The frenetic mood of Soweto seemed then like a bad taste spat from the mouth, and the air smelled fresh and sometimes heavy with rain. There was hardly a white person to be seen, and the blacks were less suspicious of one another. The only anger was the gossip—how Lindiwe Mabena had slept with Blessing Nkosi’s husband a week after she died. How Catechist Brown was never the same after Father John passed, though no one would admit they’d been lovers. How Doreen Duduzile always miscarried because she’d had an abortion as a young woman in Cape Town, and how though she’d renounced the world and followed the Lord, she couldn’t find any respite until she confessed to the murder of her unborn child, but as his mother told Grandma Marie, there are no words for some things. Everything else was pure scent. The smell of the toffees his grandmother pressed into his palms that melted in the heat of his clutched fingers, the drying grass and herd animals that filled the air with dust and delight. And something else—butterflies—everywhere, butterflies. And at dusk, the soft purple pastel of sky blurred into the darkening grass and then, before he could count to a hundred, night.

Sunil knew that his memory was faulty, that it was so tempered by nostalgia it could offer nothing concrete, but that knowledge did nothing to diminish his joy in the recollection.

The sun in his eye brought him back to the moment, to his body standing at the window of his sixth-floor office in the nondescript building in the nondescript business park east of the strip that was home to the Desert Palms Institute. His reflection in the glass made him uncomfortable, the way the honesty of shop windows makes fat women flinch. His hair was kinky and thick like a wool cap—not quite an Afro, but close enough—his nose clearly his mother’s, the soft mouth that he believed he’d inherited from his father, and skin so dark, he could be black. His eyes were the only thing he liked about himself, soft and warm, and honey-colored flecked with green; his father’s eyes, Brahmin eyes, a strange thing for a Sikh, stranger still in an African. Sighing, he took a sip from his coffee cup and focused on the view.

Sunil loved to watch the city from his office window, high up, tracking every little change in the landscape. He knew very well the illusion of chronology, the way it gave the impression that everything moved onward, expanding on a straight line, heading toward epiphany. But events weren’t linear, they moved in circular loops that made little sense, and this disjointed reality was the only truth. Chronology, he believed, was a pattern grafted over the past to claim control and understanding, to pretend meaning. It was all shit, though, in the end. He felt people were made of little more than this: history, myth, and ritual. When he remembered his past, he remembered his father with the distance of myth.

He drew with his forefinger on the glass to connect the hotels with invisible lines, reading some esoteric Masonic notions in the pattern. Even from this far away, he could see the extravagance of it all, an extravagance that was as old as the city itself. A history buff, he knew the Jewish-Irish-Sicilian mob syndicate that built the mirage of Vegas opened grandiose hotels early. In 1952, the Sahara was designed to mimic the movie romanticism of North Africa. In 1955, the Dunes, with waitresses dressed like DeMille extras in an Arabian Nights production, and a thirty-foot-tall turbaned black sultan with crossed arms guarding the doors, appeared almost overnight. And in 1956, in the new Fremont, twelve-year-old Wayne Newton rose to fame singing “Danke Schoen.”

Vegas is really an African city, Sunil thought. What other imagination would build such a grandiose tomb to itself? And just like in every major city across Africa, from Cairo to his hometown of Johannesburg, the palatial exteriors of the city architecture barely screened the seething poverty, the homelessness, and the despair that spread in townships and shanty-towns as far as the eye could see. But just as there, here in Vegas the glamour beguiled and blinded all but those truly intent on seeing, and in this way the tinsel of it mocked the obsessive hope of those who flocked there.

In Johannesburg there had been the allure of gold and untold monies to be made in the mines. Gold so plentiful, there were hills of it. No one bothered to explain to the obsessed that the glittering hills were just a trick of the light—mounds of yellow sand dug up for the gold, the silicate glowing in the sun with false promise. No wonder he felt at home here.

He hadn’t lived in Johannesburg since White Alice left, shortly after his mother was taken to the madhouse, and he had returned only once in the years since, just after apartheid officially came to an end. He’d been shocked then to see that the once vibrant city center had turned into a ghost town. Indians and whites had emptied out, fleeing either abroad or to the suburbs. What surprised Sunil, though, was that in the wake of that flight, the city hadn’t been filled by South African blacks leaving the townships for more salubrious digs, but by Nigerian and Senegalese businessmen selling everything from the popular Nollywood movies to phone cards. The feeling of racial camaraderie hadn’t been extended to these invading blacks, who the more gentle South Africans thought were worse than Zulus, which was saying something.

Now Sunil thought of Las Vegas as home. That’s the thing about having always been a displaced person; home was not a physical space but rather an internal landscape, a feeling that he could anchor to different places. Some took easier than others, and although it was always hard work, he was good at it.

He had come to Vegas from Cape Town seven years ago to codirect a new research project at the Desert Palms Institute, which, among its many government contracts and research projects with no oversight, was studying psychopathic behavior. This was the project Sunil had come here to work on. He had expected to enjoy the work, but what he had not expected was that he would fall in love with the city.

His attention returned to the coming night and the darkness that held nothing but what was projected. Was night the same everywhere? In the Soweto of his childhood the darkness was a contradiction of lights, noise, and an absolute stillness that held only police cars cockroaching through. Here in Las Vegas, near the Strip, where it never really got dark, could anything be revealed in the bright neon? He often tried to read the faces teeming there but quickly realized that everything was obscured, even in revelation; the brightness was its own kind of night.

Noticing that the coffee had run in a tiny rivulet down the side of the cup, Sunil frowned and reached for his monogrammed handkerchief, a throwback to his childhood, to the older men in Soweto who always seemed to have a clean handkerchief on them, no matter how threadbare and patched. He wiped the rivulet away, brows furrowed in concentration.

There was an exactness to Sunil that spilled out into the world and was reflected in his sense of order: the neat row of very sharp pencils in the carved ebony holder on his desk, upright and ranked by use like soldiers on a parade ground; the sharp diagonal line connecting the brushed aluminum box of multicolored paper clips and the stapler; the small photo, not much bigger than a baseball card, held in a solid block of Perspex, angled so that it was visible to him and anyone sitting across from him.

The photo was of a man with a red turban and a thick black beard and mustache. It was eroded on one side, the man’s face disappearing under a mottled furry stain. Sunil still sometimes wondered if it really was his father or a generic photo of a guru that his mother had bought in the market. He’d been too scared to ask and he regretted that.

Against one wall, color photographs of zebu cattle were arranged like the speckled squares of a Rubik’s Cube. The riotous color and patterns of the cattle hides contradicted all his control. Like a tarot deck, Asia had said the first and only time she’d come to his office. They’d had sex on the sofa and, walking around nude, she’d stopped by the wall, mentally shuffling the framed cows, trying to read the spread. He’d felt more naked than she was in that moment, more revealed than when they had sex, and though she came to his home often after that, he never asked her back to the office again.

He sighed now and crossed to the sideboard to pour himself some more coffee, wondering if he should call her and see if she was free tonight. It was Halloween, though, and she was no doubt busier tonight than on other nights. Everyone else was.


Eskia was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Desert Palms Institute, watching Sunil’s sixth-floor office. He had followed Sunil from a distance for days, always staying just out of sight, always within touching distance. He couldn’t believe how soft America had made Sunil. In the past he would never have been able to get this close to him. Those were the days— days that Eskia both loved and hated. Days that he could never forget, never quite muster the will to leave behind. He said the word, apartheid, under his breath. The way someone says the name of a lover they want to murder and fuck at the same time. His character had been forged in that crucible, in that dysfunctional relationship. Yep, Sunil had become as soft as the police. They were the easiest to follow, they never saw it coming, their sense of complete invincibility made them blind. Eskia laughed at the thought of Sunil being like the police.

There was a small bag of biltong on the seat beside him and he chewed thoughtfully on the cured meat, grateful that he’d been able to get it past customs. The last time he’d had to make do with American jerky. He took a swig from the Dr Pepper that was not as cold as he liked it, and a bite of biltong, and looked up at the window he had seen Sunil standing in. It didn’t seem to bother Eskia that he was in plain sight in the parking lot and that the thick-rimmed plastic-framed glasses were the only disguise he wore. It was surprising how people never gave nerds a second glance, how this look always blurred into a generic account if witnesses were pressed to recall who they’d seen.

He’d learned from his years working undercover for the African National Congress, the political party Nelson Mandela led, that this disguise was most effective on white people. Something about a black man in thick Clark Kent glasses threw off their balance and they simply edited him out of their perceptual reality. He even checked into hotels under the name Clark Kent, and no one ever made a joke when he presented his papers, pushing his oversize glasses up his nose. Not at the hotels, not at the airport or in customs or immigration: nowhere. If it worked for Superman, he always said, it was good enough for him. Besides, the security guards at the institute were predictable and not paid well.

What he’d come for would be easier than he thought, but no less fun. He was here to kill Sunil.

He leaned back to wait. He was good at that.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for The Secret History of Las Vegas:

“[A]n unsettling and complex entanglement of outsiders, freak shows, secret government experiments into mental illness, racism, sexual exploitation and fighting dwarfs….What lifts the novel is its energy, the audacity of Abani’s imagination, and most all the breadth of vision.”—The New York Times Book Review

The Secret History of Las Vegas is not your standard crime novel....It’s Tony Hillerman as filtered through J. M. Coetzee, a moving, strange and savagely funny book.”—Los Angeles Times

The Secret History of Las Vegas brings an admirably global perspective to the crime novel. Every noir needs a victim of circumstance, but here the circumstances are the military-industrial complex and state-sponsored racism.”—The Washington Post

"Abani's latest is not an ordinary crime novel....Everyone is fucked."—The New Inquiry

“An intricate braid of story strands, enriched by vivid descriptions, intriguingly dysfunctional characters, and abundant metaphors. Expect the unexpected.”—Booklist

“Lambent prose lifts this offbeat crime novel from PEN/Hemingway Award-winner [Chris] Abani.”—Publishers Weekly

“[I]n this grim but beautifully written tale…Abani creates vivid metaphors not just with his characters, but also with a drowned town emerging from the waters of Lake mead, a ghost town that hosts the Carnival of Losr Souls, and the city of Las Vegas, which celebrates the dark, the hidden and the grotesque.”—Kirkus  (starred review)

“[A] psychological, literary thrill ride with a little noir sprinkled in to keep readers from going over the edge. Abani reveals the dark sides of all his characters while at the same time painting them in a sympathetic light, resulting in a beautifully written examination of the human condition—and the depths we will go to justify our actions.”—The Gazette
Praise for Chris Abani:

"Chris Abani might be the most courageous writer working right now. There is no subject matter he finds daunting, no challenge he fears. Aside from that, he's stunningly prolific and writes like an angel. If you want to get at the molten heart of contemporary fiction, Abani is the starting point."—Dave Eggers, author of The Circle

“Abani is a force to be reckoned with, a world-class novelist and poet.”—Russell Banks, author of Lost Memory of Skin

“Abani has the energy, ambition and compassion to create a novel that delineates and illuminates a complicated, dynamic, deeply fractured society.”—Los Angeles Times

“Ambitious…[GranceLand is] a kind of small miracle.”—John Freeman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[The Secret History of Las Vegas] is An intricate braid of story strands, enriched by vivid descriptions, intriguingly dysfunctional characters, and abundant metaphors. Expect the unexpected.”—Booklist

“[I]n this grim but beautifully written tale…Abani creates vivid metaphors not just with his characters, but also with a drowned town emerging from the waters of Lake mead, a ghost town that hosts the Carnival of Losr Souls, and the city of Las Vegas, which celebrates the dark, the hidden and the grotesque.”—Kirkus  (starred review)


Reading Group Guide


Detective Salazar is headed home one evening when he's called to check out a mysterious discovery on the edge of Lake Mead: conjoined twins, wading in the water, and next to them, a container of human blood. Salazar has been on the trail of a serial killer-could this strange pair be the murderer he's searching for? The answer to this question, and the layers of deception and loss that extend from it, is at the core of The Secret History of Las Vegas, the new novel from the award-winning novelist and poet Chris Abani. Dark, complex, and suspenseful, The Secret History of Las Vegas creates a compelling portrait of a group of misfit characters caught up in a web of revenge.

The twins, Fire and Water, are members of the Carnival of Lost Souls, a community of freaks and sideshow acts living outside the Las Vegas city limits. By turns arrogant and evasive, the twins are brought in for psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Sunil Singh, an expert in psychopathic behavior. Sunil is haunted by memories of the political violence and racial oppression of his childhood in South Africa; for him, Fire and Water are not simply criminals or case studies, but fellow outsiders, in their own way. Together Sunil and Salazar are determined to unravel the mystery of the twins-their guilt or their innocence, their motive and their identity.

The Secret History of Las Vegas is built on a constellation of histories, both personal and political, and the novel shifts effortlessly from one character's experience to another. Love, regret, and revenge are woven into the fabric of each character's life; some, like Singh, seek to forget their past, while others, like Fire and Water, are determined to avenge it. Apartheid, abuse, and the casualties of America's nuclear testing-many dark threads are woven into the plot, yet Abani's novel is ultimately a compassionate one. His characters are flawed and their flaws are complex, but he presents them without judgment, leaving it to the reader to decide whether personal pain can ever justify terrible deeds.

Abani's writing is crisp and quick, and he captures the hollow beauty of Las Vegas and the strange worlds that hover around the city's edge. The Secret History of Las Vegas is not a standard mystery novel, nor is a tale of moral outrage, or heartbreak, or history-it is all these things and more. Abani sidesteps all expectations, bringing seemingly divergent plotlines together in a stunning conclusion that readers will be talking about well after they finish the book.


Chris Abani is a poet and novelist whose work includes Graceland and The Virgin of Flames. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Hemingway/PEN Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among other honors. Originally from Nigeria, he lives in Chicago where he is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.


Location figures prominently in the novel, not only where the characters are, but where they are from. How influential has location been in your other novels?

All my work is character driven to a large extent. I am interested in the way individuals and even cultures transform or resist transformation, into their ideal states. Location for me is an extension of character in the sense that I treat location as embodied, as storied with a psychological, philosophical, metaphorical and atmospheric sense of self. Most of my work has been city specific-Lagos, London, Los Angeles, and now Las Vegas-and each of those cities is as much a character as the people are. I believe that we live in a symbiotic state with "place," and that we grow and change along with place as we adjust and grow the stories of our lives in that place. So yes, place is vital. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the cathedral is as much a character as Quasimod,o and so it is with place and my novels, performing a constant symbiotic evolution where the city influences as much as it is influenced. When I decide on a location for my particular story to play out, that location will determine and limit the characters that can populate the novel and place.

For those who may be coming to your work for the first time, could you speak a little bit about your youth in Nigeria and how that informs your writing?

I grew up in small towns, a child of middle class parents. My mother was English and my father Nigerian. They met in Oxford in 1954 and were married in Nigeria in 1957. My father held many positions-school principal, Member of Parliament, schools superintendent, customary court judge and a federal commissioner. My mother was a homemaker who later worked for the state newspaper. We moved around a lot and I had a great childhood. I read a lot-my mother taught me to read when I was three or four years old and I devoured two to three books a day for years. The Nigeria of the 1970's was truly cosmopolitan-there was music from all over the world often blaring loudly from music shop speakers positioned to face the street-everything from Bach to James Brown. There were also Hollywood movies, Bollywood movies, British, American and Australian television. I was in a radio club and listened to shortwave radio broadcasts from as far afield as Siberia. I read all the Marvel and DC comics, comics from England and local comics and even graphic novels from South Africa. I was taught by teachers from Pakistan, India, and the Philippines. I was surrounded by a multiplicity of voices, accents, cultures and art forms. All of these have had a deep impact on my identity causing me to have a more global than local sense of self and making my writing fluid and musical and widely referential. These are just some of the ways that growing up in Nigeria has shaped and directed my language and aesthetic engagement.

Why did you choose to name the twins Fire and Water?

I was playing with a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde notion, exploring ways to showcase characters that have double existences, each opposite from the other and often so subconscious they often can't see the divide. Conjoined twins seemed like an easy way to manifest that externally. And since they represent different archetypal modalities of the mind, fiery and cool, it seemed logical to name them after the two opposing elements: fire and water. It was also a personal nod towards my father. When I was growing up, my father, a tough man, was sent to reform the most difficult and troubled high schools. His tendency to confront difficulty head-on earned him the childhood nickname in Igbo-Oku dukuru mini. It means "when fire burns its way to water, water puts it out."

Water's preference to speak to others in pieces of trivia is amusing, but the facts he shares are fascinating. Are they all true? Where did you get them from? Do you have any favorites?

The facts are all true as far as I know. I researched them using the usual tools-Google and fact apps for the iPhone. I then verified them in my university library as best as I could. I love the way Water deploys the facts as a way to destabilize people who question him. And yes, I do have some favorites like: only humans and horses have hymens and, it is illegal to have sex with a fish in Minnesota. My two favorite factoids, which didn't make it into the novel are that it's illegal in Bakersfield, California, to have sex with Satan without a condom and that in Utah, sex with an animal-unless performed for profit-is not considered sodomy and therefore is legal.

With the Downwinders plotline, you've created an interesting portrait of the callousness of the American military, set alongside the cruelties of the South African ruling party under apartheid. Is there any government that doesn't abuse its power in some way or another?

It's the nature of power that it leads to excess and it seems the more often the power is wielded the more the tendency towards excess. It is true that governments often believe that they are acting in the interest of their citizens when they use power, but it's a fine line, one that is easy to cross. This is what I do know, all ideologies breed institutions. Institutions often feel the need to protect themselves in order to flourish. This is usually the choice that leads to excess. I wouldn't say the book is highlighting the callousness of the U.S. military. Probably as many good things have been done by the U.S. military as bad things-it's not a simple picture. But the thing to remember is that in a democracy the military follow the orders of politicians and the politicians rule at the pleasure of the people, so we are all in the end complicit in these excesses-I think the book explores that.

Both Eskia and Sunil have blood on their hands. Are one man's crimes more acceptable than the other's?

Crime is a difficult thing to define sometimes. When a man from another country attacks us we call him a terrorist and when we retaliate we call it a military strike. Every country did this-South Africa especially during the apartheid years labeled all acts of dissent as terrorism. When a kid steals a stereo in California under the three-strike rule he can go to jail for life, but banks and their officers defraud nations and get bailouts. We know this dance. I think hierarchies of right and wrong, suffering and oppression are difficult and dangerous things. In this novel, while the crimes of each character are being investigated by the different state agencies, the characters have to go deep into themselves and face these demons on a more ethical and personal level, which can be worse sometimes than any external punishment.

Because Sunil's early life in South Africa is pivotal to both the psychology of the character and the events of the novel, you provide a high degree of detail about his childhood and youth under apartheid rule-everything from commuting to work to the methods of the torture squads. What was your process in researching or conjuring this information?

Apartheid is easy to research. The people of South Africa have done a wonderful job of cataloging and trying to confront that particular chapter of their history, more so than any nation in the world. There are books on the subject from writers like Pumla Gobodo-Madikzela and Antje Krog, which provide an insightful lens. The transcripts of the Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal are also available to researchers. But I also traveled to South Africa multiple times to get a deeper sense of things, a deeper feel for the wound. The rest is my own understanding of oppression, of totalitarian regimes and how they operate based on growing up under military rule in Nigeria.

As a poet and novelist, do you feel more comfortable in one genre than in the other? Do you find certain themes or topics run through one type of writing more than the other?

I published my first novel at sixteen. So I do always think of myself as a novelist first and foremost. Poetry is a skill that came later and is much harder for me. Poetry is such a difficult form, which like painting is oversaturated, making it so hard to do anything new and interesting in it. I think prose comes easier to me. But still, I do them both well, I think. Well enough for my friend, Jamaican writer Colin Channer, to call me bi-textual. As for themes and tropes, I do think some things are better worked out as novels, or poems or even essays. I let the material lead the way and with experience and time, you develop an instinct for which works best. The way a good tailor knows what fabric works best for different bodies and different garments.

Which writers inspire you? If you could recommend one piece of writing-fiction, nonfiction, or poetry-to your readers, what would it be?

There are so many writers it would be impossible to list them all. I think the book I wished I had written is One Hundred Years of Solitude. My formative years were important in terms of influence so it would include comic books, TV shows, and all the Russian novelists and of course my main man, James Baldwin. Toni Morrison is someone I return to repeatedly as is Wole Soyinka. Also my friends like Peter Orner, Kwame Dawes, and Cristina Garcia. Really the list could go on. I think everyone should read the Bible. Everything you need to know about human nature, war, and the worst crimes is present in that tome. It's a thriller, noir, telenovella, self-help, fantasy, and sci-fi-all genres can be found in it. That it serves some people spiritually is just another level of the gifts of the writers. It's like an anthology of human history-desire and conflict.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on some commissioned screenplays and a collection of essays. The essays are around craft and culture, and there is a new collection of poems fighting its way out of me.

  • Abani begins the novel with two quotations. How do these relate to the events of the novel?
  • When Eskia is first introduced, the reader's initial instinct is concern for Sunil; we feel we know Sunil and trust him. When the truth about Sunil, Eskia, and Jan was revealed, did your feelings toward either man change?
  • How do the stories of Selah and Dorothy, the two mothers, reflect each other?
  • What is the significance of Salazar's ship in the last chapter? What does that shared ritual provide for Sunil?
  • Were you disturbed by any of the violent content of the novel? Were you familiar with any of the issues, such as apartheid or the nuclear testing in Nevada?
  • The two women in Sunil's life, Asia and Sheila, have left Las Vegas by the end of the novel; Asia is at the ranch and Sheila is traveling to Cape Town. Do you believe either woman will see Sunil again?
  • The Secret History of Las Vegas is populated by misfits and outsiders. Which character did you find most compelling and why? Who was your least favorite character?
  • How does the relationship between Salazar and Sunil progress through the course of the novel?
  • Parents play an influential role in the characters' lives; for Sunil and the twins, it is a lack of parents, while for Eskia, it is his father's presence that is formative. How have your parents influenced your life?
  • Which passages or descriptions in the novel really resonated with you? Explain.
  • How does Abani's novel connect with other books you have read recently? Will you read more of his work in the future?
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