June: “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” by Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Our June 2017 Book of the Month

After 20 years of readers anticipating a new book, Arundhati Roy has proven that she is that rare writer well worth the wait. Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her debut novel The God of Small Things in 1997. The book was an international bestseller yet she chose to spend the last 20 years writing essays and non-fiction. Like Grace Paley did for many years in America, Roy became a passionate activist for the many injustices in her native land. She has tirelessly fought for what she believes in and was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Roy returns to the landscape of fiction. She has written an epic sweep through Indian history, made deeply personal, through her unique characters and the intimate relationships they forge. She ultimately tells a grand story brought down to the small scale of individual lives. The book brings the reader through pain and suffering while shining a light on the joys, loves and experiences that bring meaning to life.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent—from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. It is an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a story told in a whisper, in a shout, through unsentimental tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Each of its characters is indelibly, tenderly rendered. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope. The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her—including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi. As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page the miracle of Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.


Arundhati Roy is the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. Her nonfiction writings include The Algebra of Infinite JusticeListening to GrasshoppersBroken Republic, and Capitalism: A Ghost Story, and most recently, Things That Can and Cannot Be Said, coauthored with John Cusack.

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