The Association of Small Bombs
by Karan Mahajan

Overview -

National Book Award Finalist
One of the New York TimesBook Review s Ten Best Books of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of 2016

Named a Best Book of 2016 by: Buzzfeed, Esquire, New York magazine, The Huffington Post , The Guardian , The AV Club , The Fader , Redbook , Electric Literature , Book Riot , Bustle , Good magazine , PureWow , and PopSugar

Longlisted for the FT/Oppenheimer Emerging Voices Award

Wonderful. 

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More About The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

National Book Award Finalist
One of theNew York TimesBook Review s Ten Best Books of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of 2016

Named a Best Book of 2016 by: Buzzfeed, Esquire, New York magazine, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The AV Club, The Fader, Redbook, Electric Literature, Book Riot, Bustle, Good magazine, PureWow, and PopSugar

Longlisted forthe FT/Oppenheimer Emerging Voices Award

Wonderful. . . . Smart, devastating, unpredictable, and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout. If you enjoy novels that happily disrupt traditional narratives about grief, death, violence, politics I suggest you go out and buy this one. Post haste. Fiona Maazel, The New York Times Book Review
Brilliant. . . . Mr. Mahajan s writing is acrid and bracing, tightly packed with dissonant imagery. . . . The Association of Small Bombs is not the first novel about the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but it is the finest I ve read at capturing the seduction and force of the murderous, annihilating illogic that increasingly consumes the globe. Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
Mahajan s] eagerness to go at the bomb from every angle suggests a voracious approach to fiction-making, a daring imaginative promiscuity that moves beyond the scope of his first, very good novel, Family Planning. The New Yorker

A] beautifully written novel. . . . Ambitious. . . . Carries us deep into the human side of a tragedy. The Washington Post

For readers of Mohsin Hamid, Dave Eggers, Arundhati Roy, and Teju Cole, The Association of Small Bombs is an expansive and deeply humane novel that is at once groundbreaking in its empathy, dazzling in its acuity, and ambitious in scope
When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb one of the many small bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.
Karan Mahajan writes brilliantly about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators, proving himself to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation.


  • ISBN-13: 9780525429630
  • ISBN-10: 0525429638
  • Publisher: Viking Pr
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 276

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age

BookPage Reviews

The ripples of extremism

Though terrorist acts may have different motivations, they share a common factor: the suffering wrought on the victims’ families. That point is dramatized with chilling effectiveness in Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs, a novel in which questions of politics and religion are rarely far from the thoughts of its main characters.

Mahajan, whose 2008 debut novel, Family Planning, was published in nine countries, begins his story with a 1996 marketplace bombing in India. The Khuranas, who are Hindu, have sent their two young sons to an open-air market to pick up their television from an electrician. The boys bring their Muslim friend Mansoor, the Ahmeds’ only child, along. An explosion “under the bonnet of a parked white Maruti 800” kills the Khurana boys, but spares Mansoor. His injury seems minor at first, but when he gets to America years later to study computer science, his wrist and neck pains become so severe that he’s unable to type.

The novel shifts perspective throughout to encompass multiple viewpoints and demonstrate the intersection of lives affected by that initial blast, including Mansoor, who abandons his secularity after he experiences prejudice; a bomb maker named Shaukat “Shockie” Guru; and a Muslim activist who becomes more radicalized as the novel progresses.

The focus wanders a bit during detailed passages about Indian politics and Mansoor’s religious conversion, but this remains a compelling story about extremism and its effects. Much of the writing is beautiful and evocative, as when the bereaved Khuranas awake to find “two parallel lines of salt” on their sheets from “shoulders soggy with tears” after the death of their sons. Some terrorist acts have relatively few casualties, but as Mahajan eloquently points out, even small acts of violence have devastating repercussions. In the world of political terrorism, there are no small bombs.


This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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