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Last Man in Tower Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 20, 2011
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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“Epic. . . Adiga capture[s] the vicious underbelly of modern-day real estate in India’s maximum city. Even more so, he taps into the lives and minds of India’s growing middle class. They inhabit the sphere between the city’s slums and, say, the world’s first billion-dollar home recently built in Bombay, with more square footage than the Palace of Versailles. Like the United States more than a half a century earlier, India is in its ascension, and all the materialism and belligerence about who might be getting left behind is a perfect echo of our Cold War era. The Indians of Adiga’s book yearn for material stability. What that means, how much one really needs to be secure, is at the heart of the story. For the defiant Masterji, [what it means] is the dangerous desire of wanting nothing other than to die in the place where his family’s memories reside.”
—Meera Subramanian, Orion Magazine
“Vivid. . . A novel written by a Man Booker prize winner [comes with] high expectations, [and] Adiga’s latest Last Man in Tower, does not disappoint. He skillfully builds the backdrop for his story. With few words, he sets the scene of poverty and filth in the slums in sharp contrast to the newfound riches made by some in Mumbai, contrasting the new India and its bright technological future with the last remnants of the British Raj. . . . Graphic and colorful . . . thought-provoking and intense.”
—Christine Morris Campbell, The Decatur Daily
“In the rapidly expanding city of Mumbai, where new buildings sprout like weeds, the construction business isn’t just a front for illegal activity, it’s a raison d’être. When a less-than-ethical developer tries to lure, and later coerce, a community of long-standing tenants out of their apartment complex, it is only the widowed schoolteacher of 3A who continues to rebuff him. In this struggle, Adiga—the author of the Man Booker-winning The White Tiger—maps out in luminous prose India’s ambivalence toward its accelerated growth, while creating an engaging protagonist in the stubborn resident: a man whose ambition and independence have been tempered with an understanding of the important, if almost imperceptible, difference between development and progress. A-”
—Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly
“Aravind Adiga, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The White Tiger, brings readers another look at an India at once simple and complex, as old as time and brand new. . . . Adiga has written the story of a New India; one rife with greed and opportunism, underpinned by the daily struggle of millions in the lower classes. This funny and poignant story is multidimensional, layered with many engaging stories and characters, with Masterji as the hero. He is neither Gandhi nor Christ but an unmistakable, irresistible symbol of integrity and quiet perseverance.”
—Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times
“It sounds far too clinical to say that Aravind Adiga writes about the human condition. He does, but, like any good novelist, Adiga’s story lingers because it nestles in the heart and the head. In Last Man in Tower, his new novel about the perils of gentrification in a Mumbai neighborhood, the plot turns on a developer’s generous offer to convince apartment residents to leave their building so that he can build a luxury tower in its place. The book mines the tricky terrain of the bittersweet and black humor, always teasing out just enough goodness to allow readers a glimmer of hope for humanity. Adiga won the Booker for his debut, The White Tiger, and his new novel shows no signs of a sophomore slump. Last Man in Tower glides along with a sprawling cast of characters, including the teeming city of Mumbai itself. . . . With wit and observation, Adiga gives readers a well-rounded portrait of Mumbai in all of its teeming, bleating, inefficient glory. In one delightful aside, Adiga notes the transition beyond middle age with a zinger of a question: ‘What would he do with his remaining time—the cigarette stub of years left to a man already in his 60s?’ . . . Adiga never settles for the grand epiphany or the tidy conclusion. In a line worthy of John Irving, Adiga writes: ‘A man’s past keeps growing, even when his future has come to a full stop.’”
—Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor
“First-rate. If you loved the movie Slumdog Millionaire, you will inhale the novel Last Man in Tower. Adiga’s second novel is even better than the superb White Tiger. You simply do not realize how anemic most contemporary fiction is until you read Adiga's muscular prose. His plots don't unwind, they surge. [Last Man] tells the story of a small apartment building and its owner occupants, a collection of middle-class Indians—Hindu, Muslim, Catholic. There is love, dislike, bickering, resentment. Most of all, there are genuine human connections. Trouble begins when a real estate mogul decides to build a luxury high-rise where the building currently stands, offer[ing] residents 250 times what their dinky little apartments are worth. The result is chaos . . . life-long friends turn on each other. Money—even the possibility of it—changes everything. What makes [Last Man in Tower] so superb is the way Adiga balances the micro plot—will Masterji agree to sell?—with the macro: How Mumbai is changing in profound, often disturbing ways. Most of all, Last Man in Tower asks the eternal questions: What is right, what is wrong, what do we owe each other, what do we owe ourselves? Just brilliant.”
—Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
“What happens to a man who is not for sale in a society where everyone else has his price? That is the subject of Adiga’s adroit, ruthless and sobering novel. Masterji is sequentially betrayed by neighbors, clergy, friends, lawyers, journalists and even his own grasping son as the reader roots for some deus ex machina to save him. Adiga, who earned the Man Booker prize for White Tiger, peppers his universally relevant tour de force with brilliant touches, multiple ironies and an indictment of our nature.”
—Sheila Anne Feeney, The Star Ledger
“When does the heartfelt convictions of one solitary man negate the jointly held consensus of the rest of any civic society? That is the question posed at the center of Aravind Adiga’s audacious new novel, an impressive and propulsive examination of the struggle for a slice of prime Mumbai real estate. It is a worthy follow-up to Adiga’s Booker Prize novel, White Tiger, as he goes back to the well to explore the changing face of a rapidly growing India. . . . Whether the reader sympathizes with Masterji—who stands in the way of his neighbors’ most audacious dreams, and whose integrity and incorruptibility borders on narcissims—may be equivalent to, say, how each of us felt with the Ralph Nader spoiler in the Bush-Gore election. Was he an honorable man to have taken a stand? Or was he simply an egoist? There is a grudging admiration for Masterji’s stand, mixed with an impatience and frustration at how this high-principled man stubbornly torpedoes the will of the majority. . . . A Dickensian quality pervades this ambitious novel, which fearlessly tackles electrifying themes: what price growth? Will good people risk their humanity when faced with a chance to score a big payday? When does the will of a man who foregoes monetary gain resemble selfishness as opposed to virtue? And who can we trust to stand by us when we take a lone stance? This book of contrasts—between a man of finance and a man of virtue (although, of course, it is not as simple as that) . . . between wealth and squalor . . . between the old and the new is a tour de force. And it is certain to add to Aravind Adiga’s already sterling reputation.”
—Jill I. Shtulman, Mostly Fiction Book Reviews
“We humans are an optimistic lot. We want to believe that things will get better. . . . What would we do if just one old man kept us from fulfilling these dreams? This is the question that dogs the residents of rundown Vishram Society Tower A in Last Man in Tower, Aravind Adiga’s follow up to his Booker Prize winning debut novel, The White Tiger. . . . In his earlier works Adiga’s tender attention to the frustrations, yearning and anger of a cycle-cart puller, train station porter, and chauffeur lifted away the dehumanizing mask of vocation and poverty to reveal familiar vulnerabilities and aspirations. Now Adiga’s shrewd empathy extends to middle-class characters like the building’s secretary, and African born ‘nothing-man,’ who plans to use his windfall to move somewhere with a view of migrating flamingos. . . . Adiga examines cruelty and ugliness to find the trampled shreds of virtue and humanity beneath. His brilliance comes from showing good and bad hopelessly mixed together like, ‘water, the colour of Assam tea, on which floated rubbish and blazing light.’ After all—and in spite of our collective penchant for optimism—the same rubbish is piling up everywhere and there may not be much more we can do than appreciate the blazing light.”
—Erin Gilbert, The Rumpus.net
“Adiga, author of the highly acclaimed White Tiger, returns with this morality tale about events at a respectable, solidly middle-class building in Mumbai. The veneer of respectability and hard-earned bonhomie falls away after the residents—Hindu, Christian, and Muslim—are offered a windfall by an unscrupulous real estate developer who wants them to move. It is a credit to the author that the reader manages to keep...
About the Author
Aravind Adiga is the author of The White Tiger, which was awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize, and a collection of stories, Between the Assassinations. He was born in India and attended Columbia and Oxford universities. He is a former correspondent for Time magazine whose work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Sunday Times (London), and the Financial Times, among other publications. He lives in India.
Top customer reviews
The universal element of the story is the issue of people being displaced from their homes by developers (gentrification) in exchange for enough money to make it worth their while. (This happened to my childhood home when I was in college. I understood my mom's motives to sell while lamenting the leveling of the setting of so many of my formative memories.) The crux of the plot revolves around one man who holds out on selling his unit in a building, making the deal a no-go for everyone. His motives shift from altruistic to annoyingly stubborn. Of course, creating a character the reader is mad at is a great way to keep people glued to the pages. And as much as I felt like I was trudging through to get to the end of the book, I also found myself thinking about it quite a bit.
The bottom line is you can't argue with the quality of the writing in the book, and it's one of those works that's crafted in a way where its brilliance is not evident until you step back to think about what it took to assemble the thing. It's not the kind of book I'd want to read on a regular basis, but I'm glad I took the time to make my way through it.
Last Man in Tower is the story of the residents of a 50-year-old apartment building, Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society -- a six-story building that has for many years been an island of respectability amid the slums that surround the domestic terminal of Mumbai's airport. Now that the land around the airport is becoming more desirable, businessman Dharman Shah wants to purchase Towers A and B of Vishram Society, tear them down, and build a shiny new structure in the image of those he's seen in Shanghai - a city he admires so much that he is going to name his new complex after it.
In addition to his desire to make money and expand his empire, Shah wants to challenge the supremacy of another Mumbai construction magnate, J.J. Chacko of the Ultimex Group, who has just offered a ridiculously high amount (81 lakh [8.1M] rupees) for a single slum property 'apparently just to attract attention. Shah so intent on the role the Vishram project can play in this pissing contest with Chacko that he is willing to risk his life for it, ignoring the advice of his physician who tells him that his lungs are so bad that if he doesn't leave Mumbai, the pollution is going to kill him.
Vishram Society Tower A is occupied by about fifteen middle-class families, most of them parents with children still at home, working in such fields as hardware, finance, real-estate and social work. They come from a range of religious and cultural backgrounds: their ability to live in relative harmony despite their differences is a quality I learned even during my short visit to be one of the many admirable characteristics of the Indian people.
complete review is at marywwaltersbookreviews at wordpress dot com
If you are new to India, I would recommend reading this book. Please do not read Shantaram. "Last Man in Tower" (or, even better, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers") is a much more realistic and uncompromising view of life in the city. It gives you an idea of the desperate lives people lead -- a very dramatic and emotionally charged experience, but with a healthy dose of the ridiculousness that reality always provides. Definitely recommend this book.