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Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam – quick review

A Sri Lankan-born novelist creates an indelible and endearing heroine.

Sodden Downstream (Lawrence & Gibson, $29) is local author ­Brannavan Gnanalingam’s fifth novel, but the first to feature a character from his country of birth, Sri Lanka. Sita is a Tamil refugee, who lives in the Hutt Valley and works as a cleaner in Wellington. When a flood halts all transport, Sita’s boss warns her that if she doesn’t show up, she’ll lose her job. As Sita supports her husband and son, she must find a way to get to work. But for every step she takes closer to her goal, she seems fated to be set back two, despite the willing­ness of everyone around her to help. Longlisted for the Ockham New ­Zealand Book Awards, this novel is a gem. Sita is a gentle, endearing vessel for the themes of social injustice, and her ­determination and optimism should ­qualify her as one of fiction’s great ­heroines. Highly recommended.

This article was first published in the January 6, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.