Jai Chakrabarti’s A PLAY FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is a moving novel about survival guilt and the emotional cost of war, as well as the power of art and love to heal.
In New York City 1972, Jaryk Smith, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Lucy Gardener, a free-spirited southerner newly arrived to the city, fall in love and are just opening up to each other when Jaryk’s oldest childhood friend unexpectedly dies in India. Jaryk travels there to retrieve his ashes and soon finds himself enmeshed in the political turmoil of the newly arrived refugees from Bangladesh. His friend, Misha had gone there to help produce a play in protest of the government – a play that Jaryk and Misha had performed as children in the ghetto – and one that Jaryk feels compelled to stay in India to produce in memory of his friend. Lucy knows little of Jaryk’s past and feels the sting of rejection when he refuses to return home to her. Stuck between his past and his future, Jaryk must make a courageous decision.
At the center of the novel is a play written by Tagore, Dak Ghar, performed by the children in the ghetto, and directed by their loving caregiver as a way to prepare the children for a future they could not comprehend, while in India, the children performing the play are a pawn in the hands of a professor with political motivations.
Chakrabarti has a keen sense of timing – oscillating the storyline backward and forward to reveal Jaryk’s motivation, his heart-wrenching past, and his fear of moving into a future as a sole survivor of the orphanage where his story began.
A PLAY FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is a provocative meditation on love, war, politics, and art. I highly recommend it for fans of historical fiction. Listen to my interview with Jai Chakrabarti on September 23 at 7:00 pm on Superior Reads, 90.7 Grand Marais, or on the web at www.wtip.org.