Two decades after her first novel, Arundhati Roy returns to fiction with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, published by Penguin India. The book is out today, and so are the reviews. Here’s what people are saying:

In Roy’s clear-eyed and ferociously intelligent worldview, no one is spared. She is always attuned to the macro-, micro-, mini- and midi- politics of any situation, any character, any moment, and sometimes it is the people who you would least expect who get the most savage treatment. -Scroll.in

This vision of building something fine and generous feels all the more honest and hopeful because of the harder journeys of much of the rest of the book. Stick with this novel, give it time to grow, and there are lasting rewards in Roy’s ability to create a bright mosaic out of these fragmented stories. -The Guardian

 

Perhaps it’s the plethora of issues and stances that lend her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a kind of genre and narrative schizophrenia. What begins as a compelling tale of Anjum, a Muslim trans woman eking out a life in Old Delhi—botched hormone injections, familial wrath, prostitution—turns into a wide swath of narrative non-fiction, with no particular subject or theme in mind. Pollution and poverty are targeted just as much as the “saffron parakeets,” Roy’s term for the Hindu nationalists who aided Modi’s rise to power. -A.V .Club

 

At the heart of the novel is an interrogation of sectarian violence, why it persists and what feeds it. Government complicity and military malfeasance play a role, yes. But as one character explains, it boils down to this: people “aren’t very good at other people’s pain. -Time

 

For her readers, though, there has always been the nagging feeling that in abstaining from fiction, she might be misdirecting her talents. Roy has expressed similar concerns. In the introduction to her 2009 essay collection Listening to Grasshoppers, she wrote: “I worry that I am allowing myself to be railroaded into offering prosaic, factual precision when maybe what we need is a feral howl, or the transformative power and real precision of poetry.” Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, gets her back on the rails. It is political but never preachy; heartfelt yet laced with ironic humour. The over-ripe prose of The God of Small Things has been toned down, and here the poetic lines detonate precisely. -The Telegraph

 

Roy’s exquisite, furiously passionate prose is that rare instrument up to the task of telling this shattered story. She captures both the horrors of headline atrocities quickly overshadowed in the “international supermarkets of grief” by the latest horror-du-jour, and the quiet moments when lovers share poems and dreams. -San Francisco Chronicle