Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.
As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother?
Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art, and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.