In Selection Day, Manju is fourteen. He knows he is good at cricket – if not as good as his elder brother Radha. He knows that he fears and resents his domineering and cricket-obsessed father, admires his brilliantly talented brother and is fascinated by CSI and curious and interesting scientific facts. But there are many things, about himself and about the world, that he doesn’t know… Everyone around him, it seems, has a clear idea of who Manju should be, except Manju himself.
But when Manju begins to get to know Radha’s great rival, a boy as privileged and confident as Manju is not, everything in Manju’s world begins to change and he is faced by decisions that will challenge both his sense of self and of the world around him. (via Goodreads)
I have never read any of Aravind Adiga’s work before, but after reading Selection Day, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of them. This book left me almost nauseous during and after reading.
Manju’s father is physically, sexually and emotionally abusive to both of his children, and while several people step in to mitigate his effect on their cricket performances, literally no one does anything about it except for Javed telling Manju that’s not normal and he needs to get out.
Manju had potential to grow into himself, to grow out of the shadow of his father and brother, and instead, he became exactly like them. The entire book, he had the potential to lose the loathing that his father had beaten into him and open himself to other people, and he left that behind.
There were so many things about this book that just made me incredibly uncomfortable, like this quote about the rich man who sponsors Manju and Radha to their school.
“What made you go “Wow, that’s crazy!” about Anand Mehta was not that he had a Negro girlfirend in America, or that he was loudly contemptuous of his own class, or that he drank too much at the yacht club and declared that he could fix all of Mumbai’s problems in five minutes “with a guillotine” – no, what really disturbed members of his own class was the horrible but true rumor that Mehta had donated ten or fifteen lakh rupees to a school for slum children in Cuffe Parade.”
Or when Javed removes himself from Manju’s life until he gives up cricket, which meant that he essentially gave up his family. Later, Manju chooses cricket and instead of just leaving, asks Javed (who is unapologetically gay) to go buy condoms so they can finally have sex, and calls him a homo when he gets back, telling him to put a condom on and fuck himself. Seriously. There’s blatant homophobia throughout the novel from other characters, but that was just cruel, and was when I gave up on Manju as a person.
Literally every character is awful and every relationship in this book is unhealthy, and it made me incredibly uncomfortable to read it. This was a one star read for me. I recommend giving this a hard pass when it comes out, unless you really like learning about cricket.
Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras (now called Chennai), and grew up in Mangalore in the south of India. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the Times of India. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008.