The City Son – Samrat Upadhyay – Book Review

TheCitySon_SamratUpadhyayGoodreads blurb: When Didi discovers that her husband, the Masterji, has been hiding his beautiful lover and their young son Tarun in a nearby city, she takes the Masterji back into her grasp and expels his second family. Tarun’s mother, heartsick and devastated, slowly begins to lose her mind, and Tarun turns to Didi for the mothering he longs for.

But as Tarun gets older, Didi’s domination of the boy turns from the emotional to the physical, and the damages she inflicts spiral outward, threatening to destroy Tarun’s one true chance at true happiness.


When his mother walks out on his father, Masterji, what Tarun doesn’t quite bargain for is her slow descent into depression and a mental condition where he is left all alone in the world without anybody to really love and care for him. In this situation, he turns to the first person that even remotely seems to care for him, Didi, Masterji’s first wife. And soon, the situation spirals out of control for everybody involved, as Didi seems to have more than just motherly love and affection on her mind.

In this dark deeply disturbing narrative, the author Samrat Upadhyay masterfully weaves a story around a dysfunctional family with the protagonist being the only son of an unwed mother, and how he falls for the trap set by his father’s first wife. What initially starts off looking like normal maternal instincts soon degenerates into a full blown scandal where there is more to the relationship between these two than meets the eye.

Narrating from the viewpoint of Tarun from the time he is on the brink of his adolescence to the time he is in his mid-twenties, the author takes us through the various phases in his life with ease. He manages to capture the awkwardness of the onset of puberty, the changing relationship dynamics as Tarun realizes that Didi is more than just a step-mother to him, the nature of the camaraderie that he shares with Sumit, his youngest foster brother, how his father Masterji slowly realizes the gravity of the situation that he has put Tarun in and his helplessness in not being able to do anything about it at all. Given that this book primarily deals with the voices in Tarun’s head and how he manages to cope with his search for love, this book is extremely consistent with its point of view.

The author has made a brave choice of topic for the narrative and the book is quite taut and gripping in the sense that it shocks the reader with its progression. What starts off as an innocent relationship with Tarun looking for love soon descends into something a lot more disturbing and distressing. Kudos to the author for having chosen this tricky subject and managing to write an eminently readable novel about it without getting preachy. The choice of simple English interspersed with the local dialect at places also makes for easy reading.

This book is a sure-shot read for readers who like narratives that deal with serious topics, complex human relationships and coming-of-age books. Click on the following links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was offered to me by the publishers, but the review is completely unbiased.

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