The One Who Wrote Destiny By Nikesh Shukla

My reading lately has been a series of “ nearly but not quite done” books, (combo of abandoned books, starting something new or library recalls) but finally I have finished a book! This is Nikesh Shukla’s latest novel and his last book was the amazing anthology “The Good Immigrant” so my expectations were high going into this read.
My feelings about this book are mixed. There is a lot of commentary through the characters observations and thoughts about race and migration in the UK and I loved a lot of those sections of the book ( the madness of chai tea, the excellence standard people of colour need to meet, the fear of migration, the impact of hatred and much more). In terms of the plot and the characters though, though I found the descriptions of being South Asian in the sixties in the U.K quite powerful, I struggled to connect with the book overall. The book is told from the perspective of diff characters in diff time periods and although I normally enjoy that kind of structure, I don’t know how successful this structure was in this book. The plot was more just a carrier for those observational nuggets which were the strongest parts of Shukla’s writing for me.
A 3.5 star read for me. Literature Fiction The One Who Wrote Destiny tells the story of a family of immigrants across three generations. It explores the meaning of home, culture and inheritance. When the British Empire granted those it had subjugated independence, its architects did not acknowledge that what they had regarded as benevolence was in truth oppression. They instilled a vision of Britain as great and then baulked at the idea of being open and welcoming. Despite the serious issues being explored, the experience of immigration portrayed here overflows with humour. There are no heroes but rather moments of unanticipated heroism.

The story is told in four sections, each concentrating on a key character, all interlinked.

The first of these is set in 1966 when Mukesh, a teenager of south Asian descent, moves from Kenya to England and ends up in Keighley. Mukesh plans to continue his education in London, living with his good friend Sailesh who has been offered work as a juggler in the clubs around Soho. Mukesh is perplexed when he discovers that Keighley is 213 miles from the capital city. He is comforted when he discovers that other Gujuratis live nearby. Drawn to a beautiful girl, Nisha, who inspires him to write bad poetry, he stands near her house each day watching as she arrives and leaves, believing he is invisible. When he is hit by a bicycle trying to offer Nisha assistance they speak and Mukesh finds himself agreeing to perform in a show she is organising for Diwali. Here he has his first experience of violent racism. The pale skinned residents of Keighley are happy to enjoy the tea and anglicized curry from the sub continent but will not tolerate the open presence of its people.

Mukesh is telling the story of how he and Nisha got together to their daughter, Neha. He repeats this each time they meet, his way of remaining close to the great love of his life now that Nisha is dead. In the second section of the book, set in 2017, Neha is told that she has terminal cancer. This is the same illness that killed her mother but Neha had not realised she could be at risk. Her adult life has been wrapped around her work in tech. She decides to explore her wider family history, to see if there is a way that knowledge may be used to escape one’s destiny. She hopes that in doing so she may help her brother’s future children avoid the same fate.

Raks is a comedian. After his sister dies he puts together a show that achieves critical acclaim. The break he had hoped for appears to be within his grasp until an error of judgement sends him off course and he feels a need to disconnect. He has ignored the warnings to stand up for his people, allowing himself to be manipulated by white men resentful of the diverse quotas they are expected to embrace. Raks travels to New York, and to Lamu in Kenya. Much of his section of the tale is told from the points of view of those he meets along the way. He and Neha had been to Lamu as children with their maternal grandmother. Before she died, Neha told him it was here that she had been most happy in her life.

The final section of the book is set in Kenya in 1988. Nisha’s mother, Ba, has left Keighley and returned to Mombasa following the deaths of those she most cared for. She is lonely and grieving but accepting of her destiny. When Mukesh brings his two young children to spend a week with her she begrudges their invasion of her quiet routine as she waits for death. Gradually the three find a way to be together. This week will prove pivotal in all of their lives.

The stories within stories are presented lightly but with subtle depths. There are entrenched views on all sides, subjugation and resentments sitting alongside tolerance and acceptance. The immigrant’s desire for assimilation in the place they choose to make their home is, at times, at odds with retained aspects of their cultural history. The dehumanisation they encounter is painful to read yet skilfully presented.

The idea of destiny adds interest but this is a story of family in its many colours and shades. It is entertaining yet never trivialises the inherent difficulties of each situation.

An exuberant, full flavoured read. Literature Fiction *Disclaimer: I received the ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nikesh Shukla has been on my radar since the release of The Good Immigrant a few years ago though this is the first book of his that I have attempted.

Unfortunately I enjoyed the first part of this but my interest kind of disappeared halfway through the second section. I found the idea of this book more interesting that the narrative itself but I think that's just my reading mood at the moment. I may come back to this one. Literature Fiction I wanted to read this book because I adored the author's previous book, Meatspace. I had felt immediately at home with its milieu - even to the point of recognising one of the real-life locations, in Shoreditch.

There was no such sense of reassuring familiarity with this novel, its introduction dealing as it does with the dislocation felt by a recent emigrant from Kenya. Things didn't really get any easier when we transitioned to his daughter, whose misanthropy made her a rather unsympathetic character in spite of the tragedy of her personal circumstances.

I was on surer ground with her brother Raks, who had the saving grace of being funny (well, he is a stand-up comedian). But little that went before prepared me for the jump back in time to the twins’ grandmother ‘Ba’, which is where the various strands really started to come together for me.

This part of the book is beautifully written and hugely moving. By the end of her story I was feeling emotionally bereft - which is, I think, a sure sign of a really good book.

I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Atlantic Books via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review. Literature Fiction The novel tells the story of three generations of the same family each experiencing loss and struggling to determine whether they believe in destiny.

Mukesh's shares his story with his children of how he met their mother and why he has chosen not to integrate into life in Keighley, England after leaving Kenya.

Why integrate into a country that wanted me annihilated… that wanted to beat my body with bricks and cricket bats until I bled to death?

I loved Mukesh's character, he was witty and determined to do anything for love. I'm convinced he was the true comedian in the Jani family.

Neha is strong-willed and uses her final moments of life to undercover a code to treat her family's bad genes and possibly save mankind. Neha's story is heartbreaking, as it takes her almost her entire life to love more than just a donkey.

Rakesh's story is told through the voices of the people he interacts with, which include an actress, his father, a TV producer and a tourist. Rakesh is a people pleaser and he is desperate to get his big break as a comedian, as he recognises he is at the bottom of the shitpile.

I've eaten enough shit to know that shitting it back out the other side and feeding it to someone else - well, that s where the power lies. If there's no one lower than you to eat your shit, you're literally the bottom of the shitheap.

The scenes with the TV producer is just mind boggling, I keep pondering what would I really do in this situation.

Ba tells the story of why she has left England and the struggle to love her grandchildren. She shares what is destiny:

Who is the one who writes destiny? Some say he is the cousin of death. Others say he is the accountants of our life, sitting there, making note of everything we do, checking it against a balance sheet.

This is a great read Nikesh has used comedy to confront some uncomfortable truths.

Actualt rating 4.5 stars. Literature Fiction


Mukesh has just moved from Kenya to the drizzly northern town of Keighley. He was expecting fame, fortune, the Rolling Stones and a nice girl, not poverty, loneliness and a racism. Still, he might not have found Keith Richards, but he did find the girl.

Neha is dying. Lung cancer, a genetic gift from her mother and an invocation to forge a better relationship with her brother and her widowed father before it's too late. The problem is, her brother is an unfunny comedian and her idiot father is a first-generation immigrant who moved to Keighley of all places.

Rakesh is grieving. He lost his mother and his sister to the same illness, and his career as a comedian is flat-lining. Sure, his sister would have claimed that it was because he was simply unfunny, but he can't help feel that there is more to it than that - more to do with who he is and where he comes from rather than the content of his jokes.

Ba has never looked after her two young grandchildren before. After her daughter died, her useless son-in-law dumped them on her doorstep for a month and now she has to try and work out how to bond with two children who are used England, not to the rhythms of Kenya... The One Who Wrote Destiny

Nikesh Shukla ô 7 Read

The One Who Wrote Destiny is a compelling novel about three generations of one family and their destinies, successes, and failures. It opens with Mukesh, who moves from Kenya to Keighley in the 1960s expecting to find a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and instead finds a foreign and strange place, racism, and the love of his life. Neha, Mukesh’s daughter, is a logical computer programmer and she’s also dying whilst trying to avoid telling her father or her twin brother, Rak. Rak’s a stand up comedian who is facing the fact it might not be his jokes, but who he is that is causing his career problems. And finally, Ba meets her young grandchildren for the first time and has to care for them, but Neha and Rak are used to England, not Kenya, and Ba is haunted by the deaths in her family.

The characters are endearing and interesting, reflecting on their personal situations and also on more systematic issues around race, immigration, and difference. The novel is held together by the stories and certainties that families hold close, for example their tendency to die of certain things or their belief in something or another being their destiny. Neha’s portion of the narrative is perhaps the most engrossing, with her specific view of the world causing her to try and organise her family’s deaths in categories whilst dealing with her family, her cancer diagnosis, and her almost-romance with a girl in her local bar. Both Neha and Rak’s sections of the story are set in the modern day and this allows Shukla to highlight different forms of oppression and cultural identity today, from comedy panel shows to tautology.

This is a novel that is both crucial and heartwarming, with great characters and a carefully woven narrative. It foregrounds the importance of language and place in a variety of ways, from the languages characters do and don’t speak to the ways people frame their lives and their homes using words. and raises important points that arise in the lives of its characters. It is undoubtably a big novel for 2018 that is current and clever. Literature Fiction The One Who Wrote Destiny is an engrossing family saga. Told from the viewpoint of four members of the same family, it covers some big themes: immigration, racism, loss, grief and destiny.

The first section is about Mukesh. He comes to North Yorkshire in the late seventies where he meets Nisha, and against a backdrop of racial tension and violence they fall in love. They have two children, Neha & Rakesh, and the next two sections are about them. Neha has inherited her mother's genetic disease, but before she dies she has a plan to cheat destiny. Raks is a professional comedian who doesn't want to make his act about race, but following his sister's death finds himself thinking about family, culture and heritage.

The final section is about Nisha's mother who returned to Kenya following her husband's death, and the time she spent looking after the twins when their mother first died.

It's an entertaining and interesting read with some strong characters - especially the women. And by humanising some meaty topics it gives the reader plenty of food for thought.
Literature Fiction A really engrossing family saga. It's split into four stories of one family: the father, a Kenyan Asian come to the Midlands in the 80s and coping with hostility in the immigrant community as well as racism from outside; his daughter who becomes a computer programmer and wants to live her life as a Brit without considering race; his son, a stand-up comedian who uses race and immigration in his sets but prefers to joke rather than confront; and, jumping back in time, his mother-in-law, who looked after the children when their mother died.

This is one of those books that on any synopsis sounds really depressing. Nisha, the children's mother, dies young of a hereditary form of cancer; her daughter's story starts with a terminal diagnosis. The whole novel is about human weaknesses: feeling scared, bullied, letting aggression and cruelty slip by with a bowed head because confronting it so easily leads to losing your job, or violence. The author doesn't hold back on the racist violence meted out to South Asians, or the ongoing racism of the TV and comedy circuit, or on the human toll of making compromises with vile people. And the whole book is a meditation on destiny and the inevitability of failure and death. Woop.

Nevertheless, it *isn't* depressing because it's so real and human. The little connections, the moments of happiness, the real love among flawed people all come through strongly and make this a story of hope and endurance and survival, and making the most of the life you've got. Shukla is extremely strong at writing flawed, weak men who are afraid and do the wrong things: his male characters are emotionally vulnerable in a way we don't often see men depicted in fiction. (Notably, his women are less flawed and stronger.)

A hugely engaging read and very well written. Highly recommended. Literature Fiction

This book was not about whatever the blurb said it was about. Long and short, it was a running commentary on being children of immigrants (Indians)- where do you fit? Where is home?, racism in UK, and for some reason i cannot fathom but might maybe be important to humans: Destiny.

To be honest the commentary did nothing for me. I deeply felt that this wasn't a book about the characters per say but about probably anyone not white that can relate to this living in the UK. I'm not sure if it's a case of how choking news from UK and US dominates almost everything in the world, but honestly, these days I care very little for literature from that area that just centers on that.
Especially where it's done as this book commentary. It just felt like the characters were occupying space with no soul. No thought of anything besides the whole social commentary.
Who was Neha really? Who really was anyone in that family? Did they like anything? Were they anything more than children of immigrants who would never belong?

💡Hmmm maybe that's what this book was trying to pass across though🤔

I don't know. The whole thing just felt largely pointless to me.

I did like the quote at the end about Destiny though.

There is free will and there is destiny, you tell me. They coexist. Some things we write, some things are written for us. Fate is our sanskara. We created some of it in the past, which gives us the experiences we are having now, but we can change what our future self will be experiencing by our choices right now. That is all destiny is: the consequences of choices

Other than that, this book truly did nothing for me. Also the blurb of this book is truly dishonest cos it makes you feel you follow Neha on this journey but it was more like a blip and her story was over. Not even the star of the show.

I dunno maybe I missed whatever the author was trying to pull off here but this did not work for me.

But, it is a lived reality for some people over there so..... maybe don't completely write it off.

Literature Fiction A beautiful, beautiful novel from the author of Coconut Unlimited and the man who brought us The Good Immigrant.

Mukesh has left his home in Kenya and found himself in Keighley, over 200 miles away from the London he thought he would be living in. He meets and instantly falls in love with Nisha, a young woman who knows she is dying. Fast forward to Neha and Rakesh, their twin children. Neha is dying from the disease inherited from a mother she has never met; while Rakesh is trying to fulfil his destiny as a comedian. The novel finishes with Ba, the twin's grandmother; who, after surviving her husband and children, has returned to Kenya, alienated by a Britain that only offered her racism and violence.

There is this bittersweet sadness that runs through the novel that I found utterly absorbing (and resulted in two separate incidents of crying on the tube). Mukesh is obsessed with his dead wife, who he was destined to meet but lost far too soon. Neha is fixated on understanding the pattern of the deaths in her family while processing the imminence of her own. Rakesh is driven by the hope of fulfilling his own destiny as a performer and comedian, while processing the loss of his twin. I fell hard for these characters, particularly Neha and Rakesh, and did not want the story to end.

I felt that Shukla struck a perfect balance between real life and mysticism by showing the reality of racism while still giving the characters hope for a better destiny. Without the latter, the book could have become unbearably melancholy (when in fact there were a number of funny, heartwarming moments) and the combination also perfectly illustrated the point that ingrained racism in society means that British BAME people are unable to fully write their own destinies. Assimilation into the predetermined mould of The Good Immigrant is demanded and deviation is punished.

One of the most interesting parts of the novel was when we focused on Rakesh. I found it interesting that Shukla chose first-person narratives for the other main characters, while Raks' story is told through the lens of the secondary characters he interacts with. It actually made me love Raks more because I could see how sad he was but he was always one step removed so I was never allowed to fully know him.

A beautiful, heartbreaking novel about family, loss and destiny that I would highly recommend.

Thank you to Atlantic Books for providing me with an advance copy via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review Literature Fiction