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The Laughter

The Laughter

  • Author: Sonora Jha
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
  • ISBN: 9780670098101
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Dr. Oliver Harding is long settled into the routines of a divorced, aging academic. But his quiet life is upended by his new colleague, Ruhaba Khan, a dynamic Pakistani law professor.

Ruhaba unexpectedly ignites Oliver's long-dormant passions, a secret desire that quickly tips towards obsession after her teenaged nephew arrives to stay with her. Drawn to them, Oliver tries to reconcile his discomfort with the worlds from which they come, and to quiet his sense of dismay at the encroaching change they represent-both metaphorically and in Ruhaba's spirited engagement with the student movements on campus.

After protests break out demanding diversity across the university, Oliver finds himself and his beliefs under fire, even as his past reveals a picture more complicated than it seems. As Ruhaba seems to fade in and out of reach, Oliver reacts in ways shocking and devastating.

Sonora Jha has created a complex character both in tune and out of step with our time, an erudite man who first inspires and then challenges our sympathies. As the novel reaches its shocking conclusion, Jha compels us to re-examine scenes in a new light, revealing a depth of loneliness in unlikely places, the subjectivity of innocence, and the looming peril of white rage in America.

An explosive and tense work of fiction,
The Laughter is a fascinating portrait of privilege, radicalization, class, and modern academia that forces us to confront the assumptions we make, as both readers and as citizens.

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