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In 1999, an 18-year-old heroin addict retreats from his home in Britain to his family’s ancestral farm in rural Punjab to detox before starting university in London, and to separate, for a short while at least, from the place that has always treated him as an outsider. While in Punjab, he pieces together the harrowing story of his great-grandmother, Mehar, who has reached a status of local mythic hero. In 1929, at 16 years old, Mehar and two other young women were married to three brothers in one ceremony, though none of the women knew the identity of their actual husband. They spent their days veiled and cloistered, put to work under the watch of their tyrannical mother-in-law, Mai. They spent their nights waiting for Mai to summon them to a windowless chamber for time with their husband, more contractual than intimate. But Mehar wasn’t content to be left in the dark, both figuratively and literally, and her determination to take any kind of control over her life put her, and others, at risk. Weaving between these two timelines, Sahota explores themes of trauma and resilience.

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