Title: Don’t Let Him Know
Author: Sandip Roy
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asian)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When Amit finds an old love letter written by a man in his parents’ home, he figures that his mother, Romola, must have had a boyfriend before she married his now-deceased father, Avinash. But what Romola doesn’t tell her son is that, in fact, the letter was actually written to Avinash. This novel, written in the form of connected short stories, takes the reader from India to the United States and back again, jumping through time to tell the story of this family.
An amazing novel packed to the brim with realistic characters, Don’t Let Him Know tackles important issues and is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of members of one Indian family.
Don’t Let Him Know is a gorgeously written novel that travels through time around the globe to tell the story of the Mitra family. It begins with Amit, after his father’s death, finding an innocuous love letter, but Romola isn’t prepared for the memories it brings forth, for the remembrance of her own discovery of the damning letter. Romola was a new bride in the United States, a women who didn’t know her husband very well, and instead of the letters that she was so desperately awaiting from her own family, this letter shows up. Roy captures Romola’s devastation and her sense of betrayal so well; she is alone in this world, and the one person she thought she had, it turns out she doesn’t even know. It’s gorgeously done and wraps the reader in the novel emotionally.
From there, Don’t Let Him Know starts jumping through time to flesh out the stories of the Mitra family, of Avinash, Romola, and Amit. Each chapter brings something new, and the novel isn’t told chronologically. It might sound confusing, but Roy does a great job keeping the narrative thread of the novel in place and coherent. The characters take turns narrating their own stories, so the reader comes to know and understand each of them intimately. They aren’t perfect; they’re flawed and human, but they’re real.
The novel also deals with many different issues facing modern India today. It’s clear from just the summary that Don’t Let Him Know that homosexuality plays an important role, one that recurs throughout the book. But Roy also tackles issue that are less hot-button but still very important, problems that anyone can identify with. For example, what happens to your elderly mother, who lives far away, after your father dies? What happens when something occurs that makes you wonder about the path not taken, about a former boyfriend who is no longer yours to mourn? Roy does an excellent job with his subject matter, and whether large or small, the issues he chooses to write about will become important to the reader.
If you’re looking for an excellent South Asian novel that’s fascinating, superbly written, and entertaining, but never dark or heavy, then Don’t Let Him Know is a great choice. It never gets weighed down with its own importance or seriousness. It’s unassuming, but don’t let that fool you: this is a powerful novel you won’t want to put down.