Vikram Par­alkar, Cat­a­pult (JAN 14) Soft­cover $16.95 (224pp), 978-1-948226-54-7

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight | Writers Of Color -

In Night The­ater, a dis­graced sur­geon faces a long night as three vis­i­tors ar­rive at his clinic door, greet­ing him with a macabre and otherworld­ly re­quest. Be­fore sun­rise, the sur­geon will ques­tion ev­ery­thing he thought he knew about life and death. An­swers prove as elu­sive as to his vis­i­tors.

Sa­heb is dis­sat­is­fied with life. He works in a run­down gov­ern­ment clinic, hav­ing been run out of his pre­vi­ous town for med­i­cal mal­prac­tice, but he doesn’t feel that he de­serves to be trapped in th­ese work­ing con­di­tions. On a par­tic­u­larly bru­tal and frus­trat­ing work­day dur­ing which a sup­plier ar­rives with po­lio vac­ci­na­tions hours after moth­ers and chil­dren be­gin crowd­ing the clinic, three de­ceased strangers walk in.

The strangers are a mar­ried cou­ple and their eight-year-old boy who were robbed and stabbed to death as they left a fair. They long to re­turn to life, and say that their wish has been granted by an of­fi­cial in the after­life—with a catch. The fam­ily has to be phys­i­cally re­paired be­fore sun­rise; if they are, their drained, clot­ted bod­ies will re­fill with flow­ing blood.

There to as­sist Sa­heb with this most tax­ing sur­gi­cal per­for­mance of his ca­reer are his phar­ma­cist and her hus­band. As the dead await sun­rise and their ul­ti­mate fates, the de­ceased man re­veals a ter­ri­ble se­cret to Sa­heb and his fam­ily.

Within the text, surgery pro­ce­dures are prom­i­nent with med­i­cal de­tails. Sa­heb’s abra­sive per­son­al­ity be­comes more sym­pa­thetic as his back­story comes to light. The novel leaves im­por­tant plot ques­tions unan­swered but ends on what the char­ac­ters see as a hope­ful note.

Night The­ater is an imag­i­na­tive novel that tack­les ques­tions about the pur­pose of life through char­ac­ters who, when left to choose, find both pros and cons in the after­life, too.

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