When I was a little girl, my dad left me and my mum, and he never came back. And you're supposed to be gutted when that happens. But secretly I preferred it without him, cos it meant I had my mum completely to myself, without having to share her with anyone. And I sort of inherited all the affection she used to give to my dad – like he'd left it behind for me as a gift, to say sorry for deserting me
So says 11-year-old Shruti of her broken home in suburban middle England. But hopes of her mother's affection are in vain: speaking little English, and fluent in only Hindi and Punjabi, Shruti's mother is lost, and soon falls prey to family pressure to remarry. To find another husband means returning to India and leaving Shruti behind.
Meanwhile at school a new arrival, the indomitable Meena, dispenses with Shruti's bullying problems and transforms her day to day life. Desperate for companionship Shruti latches on to Meena to the point of obsession, following her through high school and on to university. But when Meena invites Shruti to join her on holiday in India, she has no idea how dangerous her obsession will turn out to be...
Gabriel Packard's The Painted Ocean has been described by Colum McCann 'as fearless tour de force. It is a rare achievement – an emotionally rich work of literature, delivered in the form of a gripping, page-turning story. The depiction of a British Indian childhood and adolescence is utterly compelling, as is the allegorical exploration of the human condition.'
Gabriel Packard is the Associate Director of the Creative Writing MFA Programme at Hunter College, and has previously given seminars at Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth and Wellesley. He writes a monthly 'Writers on Writing' column for The Writer magazine, and his journalism has appeared in publications worldwide, including New York Magazine, The Village Voice and Poets & Writers. He has a BA in English from Oxford University and an MFA in fiction writing from Hunter College. He has also worked as a researcher for the novelists E.L. Doctorow, Peter Carey and Jonathan Franzen.
The Painted Ocean
Author: Gabriel Packard