Title: The Association of Small Bombs
Author: Karan Mahajan
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
The year is 1996 in India, and two young Khurana brothers have just recruited their friend Mansoor to help them run a quick errand. What the Khurana family doesn’t realize, though, is that this small action will change their lives forever. A bomb blast in the market claims the lives of the two Khurana boys—but Mansoor is left alive. This sends repercussions far into the future that no one can foresee.
In the United States, when a bomb goes off, it’s a Big Deal. It makes national headlines, and it’s all we can talk about for days. Of course that’s how it should be—bombs and terrorism should never be a part of everyday life. We shouldn’t have to grapple with these issues to the point where they become routine. However, other countries aren’t so lucky—for many around the world, dealing with terrorism is just another part of living, and that’s what The Association of Small Bombs tries to emphasize. First, that these “small bombs” that only kill a few people are a routine part of life for some, and also that despite the fact that you can consider them “small bombs,” they have lasting repercussions that ripple through time.
This isn’t a huge, earth shattering novel. It doesn’t deal with the effects of terrorism on a global or national scale. Instead it focuses on people—the Khurana family, Mansoor—and how they are affected by this tragedy. It shows how they grow and change, but also how the bombing will cast a shadow over their lives forever. It’s incredibly interesting; Mahajan’s development of his main characters and their complex motivations is fascinating.
There is no black and white in The Association of Small Bombs. The entire novel is told in shades of gray. Good and bad might seem like simple concepts, but through this artfully woven tale, the reader realizes they are anything but. There is a human side of terrorism—both terrorist and victim—and while Mahajan does not try to apologize for terrorists, he does make clear that it is all more complicated than we’d like to think.
The Association of Small Bombs is made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that it’s based on a true story. Even more than that, it’s a story that is happening every day, a cycle of violence occurring over and over again with no end in sight. This is an important book; it’s not always easy, though Mahajan’s brevity and straightforward prose do help, but it’s absolutely worth the time you spend with it.
Note: This review was written and scheduled before Saturday (9/17/16) night’s blasts in New York City and the Jersey shore, but those incidents further underscore the points that Mahajan is trying to make in this novel.