‘There is a term for me in almost every Indian language. I am reviled and revered, deemed to have been blessed, and cursed, with sacred powers.’
In the swollen and crumbling red-light district of Kamathipura, at the heart of Bombay, Madhu is given a difficult and potentially lucrative task by her housemother — to prepare a newly arrived ‘parcel’ for its opening. The parcel is a ten-year-old girl from the provinces, sold into the sex trade by her aunt.
Madhu’s home is Hijra House, one of the last bastions in the land war slowly consuming the area, as property developers vie for land. It is here that ‘hijras’ — eunuchs, people of the third sex, 'neither here nor there’ — ply their trade. Now forty and with her looks and spirit waning, Madhu struggles with the task she has been given, confronted by memories of her past, of how she was rejected by her family — and by how she longs, secretly, to go back to them. Everything is dissolving within and around her. Then, as the land war comes to a head, and with her housemother coming under pressure by the hijra elders to sell their home, Madhu realises she must do something to save herself.
The Parcel is the masterful new novel from acclaimed author Anosh Irani, and is a savage and beautifully rendered story about community, belonging, and the cheapness of human life.
‘The Parcel is such a fantastically moving novel … one of the most heartbreaking and fascinating novels I’ve read all year.’
Lonesome Reader (blog)
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‘The Parcel is a magnificent novel, with powerfully imagined characters who yanked me into their lives from the first page and would not let go of me until the last. It is bold, bawdy, tender, funny, sorrowful, all that life is made up of, and when I did reach the end I felt abandoned.’
Anita Rau Badami, author of The Hero's Walk
‘Immersive and devastating, The Parcel is a searing tale of personal transformation amid toxic patriarchy. Madhu is at once pathetic and honourable, despicable and mighty — and imbued with such complexity, Irani brings dignity to all the transgender sex-workers of India.’
Rajith Savanadasa, author of Ruins
‘Harrowing, enraging, unexpectedly humorous, and also profoundly sad, The Parcel is a haunting work of fiction that illuminates the ways in which history, both political and personal, pervades the present day.’
Lauren B. Davis, Trevor Ferguson, and Pasha Malla (2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury)
‘As engrossing as any thriller, Anosh Irani’s fourth novel offers readers so much more … The Parcel captivates with its vividly rendered characters and commands the reader’s attention by way of unnerving — and at times profoundly disturbing — portraiture of an abject group at the bottom of an already denigrated community at the heart of India’s booming financial hub, Mumbai … Irani’s compassion for these discarded souls, and the assertion of their essential dignity, renders them simultaneously touching and distressing.’
Quill & Quire (starred review)
‘Madhu is an ambiguous figure in many ways, and Irani delves deeply into her sad past among a world of outcasts. Pulling its readers’ sympathies in conflicting directions, The Parcel is a challenging novel, sharp and uncompromisingly written.’
‘Part of the way this excellent book heals such a sprawling, horrifying reality is with beauty and religious depth.’
The Globe and Mail
‘The material can be desolating, but Irani generates plenty of black comic detail, evoking the vividness and moral ambiguity of the best Indian noir.’ PICK OF THE WEEK
Cameron Woodhead, The Saturday Age
‘Deeply etched in man’s inhumanity to man and his capacity for both depravity and redemption.’