Night Theater

Night Theater

A Novel

Vikram Paralkar


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  • This debut novel is Jordan Peele meets Carmen Maria Machado, set in rural India
  • A new kind of Indian literature for American readers
  • In meditative, evocative detail, Paralkar offers the story of one unearthly evening, when a physician must confront both his own self-doubt and his skepticism of the supernatural to save the lives of three strangers—only to learn how irreversibly connected his own fate is to theirs
  • Night Theater is a hallucinatory fever dream, a literary ghost story from a talented author ready to break out to a larger audience. It's also a reflection on all-too-real issues, on the power (or lack thereof) we instill in our physicians, and on the profoundly mutable state of life in spaces meant for healing (hospitals, clinics)
  • For fans of Helen Oyeyemi, Samanta Schweblin, Eduardo Halfon, Brian Evenson, or Rivka Galchen, as well as for readers who prefer their fiction haunted with a dash of the surreal or with some destabilizing supernatural elements (like the work of Carmen Maria Machado, Hiromi Kawakami, Italo Calvino, etc.)
  • Paralkar can paint a scene even as he has you tearing through the pages; the clinic and the characters, the family's wounds, and the doctor's instruments are rendered in vivid detail, yet as a reader, you feel the ticking hands of the surgery room clock as sunrise bears down on the murdered family
  • Night Theater explores how class, access, education, and location influence our relationship to medicine: is it magic or science, or some combination of the two? Most rural or low-income communities rely more on the supernatural than the scientific remedies, and why are we so dismissive of the natural remedies science struggles to explain?
  • Paralkar views fiction the way he views medicine: "When a patient comes to a doctor, the latter tries to find out their story, how they ended up this way, and a way to potentially change the future. I think that’s what authors are doing. They’re trying to take some aspect of human beings that puzzles, disquiets, fascinates them, and digging deeper to find out what they can understand. While my writing is a separate endeavour from my medical work and research, there are certain invisible strands connecting the two.” (from an interview in The Hindu, February 2019)
  • The author, an hematologist-oncologist, lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is a U.S. citizen, eligible for national prizes and accolades

    Select Praise From Booksellers

    "A literary page-turner, Paralkar’s Night Theater is an engaging exploration of life, death, and the afterlife. The novel follows a jaded, washed-up surgeon in rural India—understaffed, undersupplied, and overly cynical. Late one night, a young family, recently murdered yet somehow walking and talking, visits his clinic telling the surgeon that they can have a second chance at life only if he is able to repair their wounds that night before they are fully reanimated. What follows is a tautly paced, at turns gruesomely humorous, fable-like novel that almost feels like a wonderfully remixed version of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life but with emergency surgery on the walking dead. Insightful, philosophical, and endlessly readable, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Vikram Paralkar’s dimly lit, roach-infested clinic." —Caleb Masters, Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

    "What do I really know about surgeons? Only what I’ve picked up from Doctor Strange, profiles of Atul Gawande, and TV medical shows. With that as reference, I would expect a generic surgeon to be egotistical, exactingly meticulous, and contemplative about mortality. Vikram Paralkar uses these archetypal qualities as the building blocks of a rich tale of the limits of human knowledge, skill, and mettle. Told with a remarkable economy, Night Theater takes a supernatural, Gothic premise and plays it out with the kind of calm, procedural manner that is required in any operating room. The big questions of morality and mortality presented by this tale will haunt readers more than any ghosts ever could. Night Theater is a gripping parable of the limits of medical science and human resilience." —Keith Mosman, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)

    "I loved this novel. Both the writing and the story pulled me in immediately and held me there, making it a book that was hard to put down. The emotional current running through it and the philosophies examined pertaining to how we perceive and value life were subtly intoxicating. Night Theater is a beautifully carried story, lovely and unexpected." —Aubrey Winkler, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)

    "I adored this book. It was the perfect length, taking place over the course of a single, suspenseful night. The descriptions were wonderfully written, and the characters were fascinating. I loved the philosophic edge and the life after death theme that hung over the entire story. It was thrilling, sad, and so very human." —Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana (Frederick, MD)

    "For all the philosophical and metaphysical questions this book raises, it reads with the hair-raising urgency of a thriller." —Rachel Schneck, Harvard Book Store (Cambridge, MA)

    "What does it mean to be truly alive? When a village surgeon comes face-to-face with three impossible patients, he must decide if he is willing to risk everything to try to help them. What a story. A mix of speculative fiction and operating room drama, this book totally enraptured me." —Jennifer Rohrbach, Newtonville Books (Newton, MA)

    "Prolific and powerful, Vikram Paralkar's Night Theater isn't so much a tale as it is, quite literally, a philosophical debate between the living and the dead. Dr. Saheb is a surgeon well-known throughout his village and beyond, though some missteps in his past have left him bitter and cold to the world around him and the patients he sees. Saheb must leave behind his coldness on the night that a teacher, his pregnant wife, and their son visit him, asking him to do the unfathomable: undo the damage of their deaths after they were murdered, so they may be allowed to return to life and leave their deaths behind them. But, as Saheb learns quickly through the nature of their injuries, what kind of life would they really be returning to, and how? A dialogue of the afterlife, faith, and honesty, Night Theater is a beautiful and dark story that builds itself as a powerful prayer to one select entity: life." —Delany Holcomb, Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

    "Night Theater is peculiar, wise, gorgeous, dark, and difficult to put down. I’ll be thinking on this one for a long while." —Danielle Raub, Itinerant Literate Books (North Charleston, SC)

    “This book is brilliant and strange and unlike anything I’ve ever read! It will satisfy sci-fi/fantasy readers as well as literary fiction folk who like to encounter new places and scenarios. My heart pounded as I read this—it reminded me a bit of José Saramago. I loved loved loved this weird little book and will hand-sell the heck out of it!” —Mary Cotton, Newtonville Books (Newton, MA)

    "In Night Theater, a surgeon in a remote village clinic is struggling to overcome lack of resources and ennui when a young teacher and his family come to the clinic with an unusual request: they have been killed in a robbery, but if the surgeon can repair their wounds by dawn, they have a new chance at life. This is an intriguing story of fate, morality, and truth told over the course of one literally life-changing night." —Julia Atwood, Boulder Book Store (Boulder, CO)

    "Mary Shelley's heir apparent: Vikram Paralkar. Macabre. Horrific. Thought-provoking. Compelling prose dragged me on a disturbing journey that, while nightmarish, could easily be the daydream of a surgeon grappling with life and death. There's plenty of gender and caste and power structure in addition to the bigger questions of death, the afterlife, gods, etc. to bring lively conversations to any AP class or book club not too squeamish to take it on. Perdido Street Station meets Awakenings. Or Scheherazade and Octavia E. Butler and Oliver Sacks got together and cowrote a speculative horror." —Kim Raymoure, Queen Anne Book Company (Seattle, WA)

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