The Year Of The Runaways tells the story of Tochi, Randeep and Avtar, over a year in which they leave their homes in India to find work and raise money for their families. When they arrive in England, they meet Narinder, a British born woman with Sikh beliefs, and their lives entwine. Throughout the novel, we read about their struggles with finding and keeping jobs, maintaining their faith and falling in love, despite entering into agreements with others for visa-marriages. Will they survive, and can they find happiness for themselves and their families?
Illegal immigration is an important subject, and one I have rarely seen addressed in literature. From this perspective, The Year Of The Runaways is an enjoyable read. The writing style is smooth and the descriptions are detailed, particularly those of the geographical locations in the novel. These help the reader to develop their understanding of the setting.
However, in some ways, The Year of the Runaways' greatest strength is it's biggest downfall. I was expecting to be educated about the plight of illegal immigrants, and whilst it is clear that the central characters are going through difficult circumstances and the back story of each character is very descriptively outlined, Sahota gives the reader very little information in terms of the characters' culture and religion. As Sikhism is not a religion with which I am familiar, I often found it difficult to understand the terms and phrases Sahota uses, such as those referring to clothes or religious practices. This prevented me from relating to the characters, and as such this meant that whilst I could sympathise with them, I could not empathise with them, and in view of this, I occasionally lost interest in their situation.
Overall, I was underwhelmed by The Year Of The Runaways, although I do nor consider this to be a reflection on Sahota's writing, which flows beautifully and is easy to read. I believe that with additional background knowledge, I would have been able to appreciate the plot and the impact on the characters in more depth.
The Year Of The Runaways is available on Amazon.