From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This production gains much from Shale's excellent and lively performance. The text could easily have been overdone but Shale makes it sincere, hilarious, heartbreaking and delightful. Ram Muhammad Thomas;a young orphan with no formal education;correctly answers all 12 questions on Who Wants to Win a Billion? and is arrested and jailed when the unscrupulous quiz-show producers, reluctant to pay out the winnings, accuse him of cheating. In order to prove his innocence, he recounts his life story in 12 interludes, each eventually explaining the extraordinary circumstances that taught him one of the answers. Ram's life, full of horrors, becomes an allegory for all the problems of the lower classes in India, and the fantastic situations that lead him to win the quiz show take on mythic proportions. Ram's appeal lies in his childlike openness and wonder, and that of the story lies in hearing a full life unwind from the tiniest of details. Each tale is peopled by memorable characters;some recurring;and Shale gives each a distinct voice. His gifted reading, full of emphasis, inflection and excitement, is a joy to listen to.
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--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Swarup's inventive debut traces the fortunes of Ram Mohammad Thomas from "Asia's biggest slum" to his sudden acquisition of enormous wealth as the biggest winner on the popular quiz show, Who Will Win a Billion? A poor, uneducated waiter, Ram is arrested after the final episode in the belief that he must have cheated. In jail he shares his hardscrabble life with his lawyer: his abandonment at birth in a used clothing bin, the church orphanage where he was dubbed an "idiot orphan boy," the foster home where children were purposely crippled and forced to beg, the estate of an Australian diplomat who was really a spy, the home of an aging Bollywood actress, and his meager waiter job. Each chapter in Ram's life provided him with a correct answer on the show, as a la Forrest Gump, he has been in the right place at the right time. Ram's funny and poignant odyssey explores the causes of good and evil and illustrates how, with a little luck, the best man sometimes wins. Deborah Donovan
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