A Person Is a Prayer

Oldcastle Books
Ammar Kalia
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An intensely moving, lyrical and often funny novel about a family whose story of migration from Kenya and India to England is told over three separate days, across six decades.

Bedi and Sushma's marriage is arranged. When they first meet, they stumble through a faltering conversation about happiness and hope and agree to go in search of these things together. But even after their children Selena, Tara and Rohan are grown up and have their own families, Bedi and Sushma are still searching. Years later, the siblings attempt to navigate life without their parents. As they travel to the Ganges to unite their father's ashes with the opaque water, it becomes clear that each of them has inherited the same desire to understand what makes a life happy, the same confusion about this question and the same enduring hope.

A Person is a Prayer plumbs the depths of the spaces between family members and the silence that rushes in like a flood when communication deteriorates. It is about how short a life is and how the choices we make can ripple down generations.

'Kalia's debut is a moving and often very funny portrait of a family in transit — both physically and emotionally' — Dazed (10 exciting books to look out for in 2024)

'A moving family drama that explores migration, inheritance and loss' — i-D (Fiction to be excited for in 2024)

'There is so much to admire about this deeply felt debut — smart, funny and impressively soulful. I read it in one sitting' — Harriet Gibsone, author of Is This OK?

'A Person Is A Prayer has a prismatic quality...It's a rich read, freighted with the weight of expectation, where overlapping perspectives illuminate new corners of contemporary British life' — Emma Warren, author of Dance Your Way Home

'An inspired debut novel! Nuanced and deeply perceptive, an honest reflection of families and how we are inescapably shaped by them. A heartbreaking yet funny and poetic story of finding home in comfort over joy' — Sarathy Korwar, award-winning musician

'An exquisitely written, incisive and evocative family saga. Ammar Kalia explores cultural complexity and human frailty with compassion, wit and generosity of spirit' — Jake Lamar, author of Viper's Dream

Contributor Bio

Ammar Kalia is a writer, musician and journalist living in London. Since 2019, he has been the Guardian's Global Music Critic and he has written for publications including the Observer, BBC, Dazed, Mixmag, Economist, Downbeat and Crack Magazine. In 2020 he published a collection of poetry and an accompanying album, Kintsugi: Jazz Poems for Musicians Alive And Dead, and in 2022 his essay on music and identity was included in the collection Haramacy. A Person Is A Prayer is Kalia's debut novel and was shortlisted for the Unbound Firsts Prize in 2022.