Book Review: Amnesty

Not entirely what I expected when I read the blurb. After I finished Amnesty, I had to give it a few days until I wrote this review. I rarely ever do that. Yet after reading other reviews and letting the story sink in, I think I can come up with something…

Danny—formerly Dhananjaya Rajaratnam—is an illegal immigrant in Sydney, Australia, denied refugee status after he fled from Sri Lanka. Working as a cleaner, living out of a grocery storeroom, for three years he’s been trying to create a new identity for himself. And now, with his beloved vegan girlfriend, Sonja, with his hidden accent and highlights in his hair, he is as close as he has ever come to living a normal life.

But then one morning, Danny learns a female client of his has been murdered. The deed was done with a knife, at a creek he’d been to with her before; and a jacket was left at the scene, which he believes belongs to another of his clients—a doctor with whom Danny knows the woman was having an affair. Suddenly Danny is confronted with a choice: Come forward with his knowledge about the crime and risk being deported? Or say nothing, and let justice go undone? Over the course of this day, evaluating the weight of his past, his dreams for the future, and the unpredictable, often absurd reality of living invisibly and undocumented, he must wrestle with his conscience and decide if a person without rights still has responsibilities.

Propulsive, insightful, and full of Aravind Adiga’s signature wit and magic, Amnesty is both a timeless moral struggle and a universal story with particular urgency today.

Thank you to Pan Mac Millan and Picador, who provided a paperback copy. I loved the vibrant cover. It definitely spiced up my bookshelf.

Believe it or not, this entire book takes place over one day. With the occasional flashbacks of Danny’s life in Sri Lanka, Dubai and establishing in Australia. Over one day, it dragged a bit. Like previous people stated that they had to reread sentences to grasp what Adiga was saying. The plot was intriguing and left me wondering what might happen, but at one point, you just want it to end. It’s continuous doubt and reflecting for Danny which readers might find frustrating at times.

Danny is a cleaner who finds out one home he’s cleaned, there’s been a murder. He used to clean that place but stopped months ago. Yet he feels responsible for what he knows. What he knows might get him deported if he speaks up. It’s a tough cookie. Either let the murderer run free or tell the truth yet risk getting deported. With only less than twelve hours to decide, Danny has to figure out what’s more important to him.

Through his decision-making we find the true Danny and what he went through just to get into Australia. The people he’s met along the way, the relationships he’s made and the judgements he’s made on Australian people. At one point, I couldn’t figure out whether he liked Australia. He’s placed so many judgements and labels on the people and how things should be that it’s hard to determine if he likes it here?

Adiga made suitable points on what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant and their daily lives. Constant fear over them, wondering when’s their next paycheck and just trying to find a place to call home.

Hierarchies exist in invisibility; there are always better ways to stay unseen. - pg 18 

The writing really pulls you into Danny’s mind and how he perceives the world. Not only Sri Lanka but Australia and what it offers. However, the writing was hard to decipher. Maybe it was the lack of spaces between telling a story and the present or if it was necessary or not.

The characters in Amnesty were unusual. From Danny’s weird habits yet quick thinking to Sonja’s adoration for him. She’s mentioned now and then, but definitely an important factor to Danny’s life. Then there’s our victim, Rhada, one of Danny’s clients. She was an oddball. They all were. Her obsession along with Prakash with gambling. Rhada cheated on her husband and let Prakash stay in one house Danny cleaned. I find this to be ambiguous since their affair went on for so long. Yet no one else noticed besides Danny? Rhada’s husband didn’t question her about the other house or where she might be at certain times of the day. Only query with this book.

Other than that, I enjoyed the adventure Danny went on throughout Sydney. Yes, at times it got boring and dragged a bit. Yet we learned more about his life in Australia and what it meant to him until we’re drawn to the conclusion.

I won’t give it away, but I recommend this book to readers who are looking for something fresh. Especially through the eyes of an immigrant. It has enough suspense yet backstory to keep you on your feet. However, it didn’t keep mine for too long for it to receive three out of five stars.

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Perth WA 6000, Australia