The Year of the Runaways
South Bank Sky Arts Awards Literature Award
Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award
International Dylan Thomas Prize
Man Booker Prize
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015
'A brilliant and beautiful novel' Kamila Shamsie, Guardian
'The Grapes of Wrath for the 21st century' Washington Post
The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the chaotic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.
Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, Sunjeev Sahota's generous, unforgettable novel is – as with Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance – a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
In the media
Told in the most intimate of ways, not theorised but deeply felt . . . Sahota is a writer who knows how to turn a phrase, how to light up a scene, how to make you stay up late at night to learn what happens next. This is a novel that takes on the largest questions and still shines in the smallest details. Sahota moves some of the most urgent political questions of the day away from rhetorical posturing and contested statistics and into the realm of humanity. The Year of the Runaways is a brilliant and beautiful novel.
Kamila Shamsie Guardian
Writing with unsentimental candor, Mr. Sahota has created a cast of characters whose lives are so richly imagined that this deeply affecting novel calls out for a sequel or follow-up that might recount the next installment of their lives.
New York Times
An ideal antidote to a year of reductive discussions of immigration, Sunjeev Sahota's novel takes you deep into the lives of a group of Indian labourers thrown together in Sheffield. Deftly shifting in time and place, Sahota builds a portrait of the often painful circumstances that lead these men to abandon life in India for this cold, damp city, in the hope of starting afresh. This is Sahota's second novel. His first, Ours Are the Streets, was an acutely observed story of a young man's shift from ordinary British Pakistani teenager to Muslim radical. The Year of the Runaways is no less accomplished in its lyrical prose and ability to immerse the reader in the experiences of a hidden community in Britain . . . It is a testament to Sahota's accomplished characterisation that he maintains sympathy with the men even after they commit crimes and take advantage of others
Emily Dugan Independent on Sunday
The Grapes of Wrath for the 21st century . . . We know — from Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck — how such a monumental social novel should work. But the great marvel of this book is its absolute refusal to grasp at anything larger than the hopes and humiliations of these few marginal people. With that tight focus, the story’s critique of inequality, racism and economic slavery remains entirely implicit, but no less devastating. Instead of speed, it offers precision, gathering small morsels of spoiled hope until the story’s momentum feels absolutely overwhelming.