In the wake of their mother's mysterious death, Linno and Anju are raised in Kerala by their father Melvin. When Anju wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in America, she seizes the opportunity, even though it means betraying her sister. Meanwhile, back in Kerala, Linno is undergoing a transformation of her own, rejecting the wealthy suitor whom her father has chosen. When Anju goes missing, Linno comes up with a scheme to procure a visa so that she can travel to America to search for her sister (From back of book).Generally, I enjoy books about dark, scandalous family secrets. That's what I was expecting from Atlas of Unknowns, and I was waiting for something momentous to occur at each page turn. I was waiting, waiting, waiting, plowing through chapter after chapter... but nothing really happened.
Now, don't get me wrong - this is not a bad book by any means. James's writing is simple, at times dry, and at other moments very deep. The concept of the book itself is a good one: two sisters who are separated in different countries are struggling to find their place and come to terms with their family's past (which, by the way, isn't very shocking). I connected with the characters, I understood their issues, and I even cared about them. When I reached the end of the book, however, it felt as if something was missing. I didn't feel like anything was resolved, and I didn't feel any closure. I guess you could argue that the book is wonderful in its simplicity, but I wasn't feeling it.
I want to love this book. It's almost painful how monotonous it felt, because I know that Atlas of Unknowns isn't just any old piece of fiction. It has potential to be a masterpiece, if only it contained more twists, more emotion. To me, the raw elements that make a great book are here. They just need to be developed and be built upon to turn Atlas of Unknowns into a poignant and unforgettable novel.
Recommendation: It's hard to recommend this book to a certain group of people, because I know each person will be affected differently and take away different things. So if you see Atlas of Unknowns in the library, I suggest you give it a try. It didn't blow my mind, but it might blow yours.