“The Archer” by Shruti Swamy
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Featured on The Thread: In this poetic new novel, an ancient form of dance frees a modern storyteller
In this transfixing novel, a young woman comes of age in 1960s- and 1970s-era Bombay, a vanished world that is complex and indelibly rendered. Vidya’s childhood is marked by the shattering absence and then the bewildering reappearance of her mother and baby brother at the family home. Restless, observant, and longing for connection with her brilliant and increasingly troubled mother, Vidya navigates the stifling expectations of her life with a vivid imagination until one day she peeks into a classroom where girls are learning kathak, a dazzling, centuries-old dance form that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Her pursuit of artistic transcendence through kathak soon becomes the organizing principle of her life, even as she leaves home for college and falls in complicated love with her best friend. As the uncertain future looms, she must ultimately confront the tensions between romantic love, her art, and the legacy of her own imperfect mother.
Lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as mesmerizing as kathak itself, Shruti Swamy’s The Archer is a bold portrait of a singular woman coming of age as an artist—navigating desire, duty, and the limits of the body. It is also an electrifying and utterly immersive story about the transformative power of art, and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.