Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Review: 'Blue-skinned gods,' by SJ Sindu

Review: 'Blue-skinned gods,' by SJ Sindu

  • 0
"Blue-skinned Gods," by SJ Sindu.

"Blue-skinned Gods," by SJ Sindu. (Soho Press/TNS)

"Blue-skinned Gods" by SJ Sindu; Soho Press (336 pages, $26)


SJ Sindu has imagined a fascinating premise for her novel exploring identity, family, community and the tensions that arise among them: A boy born with a rare medical condition that causes his skin to turn blue is raised to believe he is an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. His parents set up an ashram outside a village in Tamil Nadu, India, where pilgrims from all around the world can come to worship him. The boy, called Kalki, believes he has the power to heal the sick, and indeed many ill people appear to be healed by his prayers.

At the novel's opening, Kalki is 10 years old and is called upon to complete three miracles to confirm his godhood: to heal a girl named Roopa, to call white horses from Heaven to the ashram, and a third healing which tests his faith. However, as his fame grows, Kalki begins to doubt his own godhood. He does not feel his own power and wonders if other factors might be at play. His controlling father refuses to answer his questions. Instead, over the years, his father conspires to keep Kalki in ignorance, first driving away his longtime companion and cousin, then the young woman he loves, and finally Kalki's mother.

The novel really takes off when the adult Kalki finds the courage to leave his father and to pursue his own dreams. In the brilliant final third of the novel, Kalki finds himself in New York City, where he has a full-blown identity crisis.

Here Sindu is at her inventive best, with wild juxtapositions of people and situations, from a post-punk band that takes in Kalki, to hipsters of various gender identities who try to seduce him, to new-age worshipers who refuse to believe he is not a healer, to gangsters who want to bring him back to the ashram. These witty episodes allow Kalki to try to define himself as well as to understand the world around him.

Kalki even runs into another former child god, a young woman from Nepal named Sunita, at a house party in a Brooklyn brownstone.

When a video of Kalki goes viral, groupies flock to him again, reminding him of his days as a god. "Isn't it still wrong?" he asks Sunita. "I'm tricking all these people."

"You can't trick someone who wants to be tricked," she answers wisely.

Sindu's previous novel, "Marriage of a Thousand Lies," won the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and was a finalist for a Lambda Award.


May-lee Chai's latest collection of short stories, "Useful Phrases for Immigrants," won a 2019 American Book Award. Her next book, "Tomorrow in Shanghai and Other Stories," is forthcoming next summer.


Stay up-to-date on what's happening

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

In 1973, a Korean War veteran with a Ph.D. in English from Boston University published his first novel, a detective tale called "The Godwulf Manuscript." Its hero was a private detective named Spenser (no first name). Robert B. Parker’s books about him became a phenomenon — Parker wrote 40 bestselling novels about Spenser (as well as numerous books in three other series) before he died at his ...

“Taking Down Backpage: Fighting the World’s Largest Sex Trafficker" by Maggy Krell; NYU Press (192 pages, $22.95) ——— It’s the best justice system money can buy. As a prosecutor in California, Maggy Krell saw that unfairness daily, particularly when cops would do sweeps of streetwalkers. Pimps and johns who exploited prostitutes went free. The women went to jail. Krell’s book, “Taking Down ...

SEATTLE — Elizabeth George does have an endgame for her bestselling Inspector Thomas Lynley mysteries — the newest of which, "Something to Hide," arrived in bookstores Jan. 11. But, to the relief of the many fans of the series, she hasn't arrived there yet. George, speaking in a telephone interview from her Seattle home, said she's always delighted to begin a new Lynley book: "There's always a ...

Evison deftly weaves stories of the present and the past, illustrating how all of our lives and futures are linked together. "Small World" by Jonathan Evison; Dutton (480 pages, $28) ——— The passengers aboard the Amtrak Coast Starlight are all bound for Seattle. Strangers on a train, they will all be affected by an accident that will derail plans and upend lives. Jonathan Evison's "Small ...

In this retelling of the myth of Apollo and Daphne, author Mark Prins has written an engrossing psychological thriller. "The Latinist" by Mark Prins; W.W. Norton (352 pages, $26.95) ——— The cover of Mark Prins' sparky but flawed debut novel, "The Latinist," depicts in lurid colors Italian baroque sculptor Bernini's celebrated statue of Apollo and Daphne. The effect jars with the ...

Here are the bestsellers for the week that ended Saturday, Jan. 15, compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide, powered by NPD BookScan © 2022 NPD Group. (Reprinted from Publishers Weekly, published by PWxyz LLC. © 2022, PWxyz LLC.) HARDCOVER FICTION 1. "To Paradise: A Novel" by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday) Last week: — 2. ...

What does it take for one British-Nigerian woman to find a date to her cousin's wedding? A lot, apparently. "Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?" by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn; Pamela Dorman Books (384 pages, $26) ——— If Lizzie Damilola Blackburn's debut novel, "Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?," was to become a TV sitcom, it could run episode after episode, season after season, without losing steam on ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News

Husker News