Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.
Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world–and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.
As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into an organ black market ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe–and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.
Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.
Excerpt from A Distant Heart:
Freedom was a beautiful thing! Mumbai in all its grimy, gray, pre-monsoon glory flew past Kimi as her auto-rickshaw sped between cars and pedestrians with the zeal of a bastard child born of a Diwali rocket and an immortal god. She almost asked the driver to slow down, but with the wind whipping her ponytail and the driver’s mop of curls in a joint symphony she felt as recklessly brave as the whirring vehicle racing along on its three wheels.
Emblazoned across the dashboard of the rickshaw was the goddess Durga dancing on the corpse of a demon like the evil-hunting badass she was. Bowing to her was Bollywood’s favorite superhero, Krish, with his muscles bulging like fat rubber balls and his hair coiffed high. In a perfect background score to Kimi’s life’s drama, the techno-beat-laden remix of an old Bollywood number drowned out the cacophony of horns the driver left in his wake.
The combination was delicious and exactly worthy of what she had just done. What she was about to do.
You know who else was badass? Kimaya Kirit Patil, that’s who.
There had been one hundred and twelve instances over twelve years when each breath had been a fight and her limbs had turned to mist. She had fought. Not like a warrior, because that would involve the use of said limbs, but like someone drowning, where all you could do is keep the water out of your nose, so it wouldn’t keep the air from your lungs. Breathe out. Breathe out. She had followed those breaths. Grabbed on to those thin wisps of air like lifelines and made herself live one grip at a time.
Then the cure she had waited twelve years for in a sterile room had come. A heart had become available. Surely that meant something. Someone had died, after all, so she might live. Someone with the exact kind of blood and plasma that would let a foreign heart beat within her chest with the confidence of an indegene. Surely that meant she could now have what she never thought she would—all that she had gazed upon from the windows of her room, sealed tight with every technology known to man, so no germ, no pathogen would dare venture into her world, let alone an entire human being. Except Rahul—he had ventured. And then gone on venturing until he was all the way inside.
He’d helped her understand calculus and the nuanced stories of Premchand. He had known how atoms split, why Europe went to war twice within half a century, and the why and when of each invention that transformed the history of civilization. He had touched her, despite promises he’d made. Because it was exactly what she had needed. His gloved hand in hers. He had given her anything she had asked for when everyone else had been too afraid. And she had known that if she lived, if her parents got what they had sealed her in a room twelve years for—a daughter who lived—she would spend the rest of that life taking care of him. The way he had taken care of her.
Except she hadn’t considered the most important part of her plan: him. She had returned from Hong Kong with her new heart and he had looked at her with those dark-tar eyes turned even darker by all that emotion when she ran to him. “You’re running,” he had said, as usual choosing the least words to say the most.
“Yes,” she had said, knowing exactly why every single hard-won breath had been worth it. But then she had told him her grand plan: the two of them living happily ever after.
As always she had asked him for what she wanted. What she hadn’t for one moment considered that he didn’t also want.
He had thanked her for the offer to love him forever, and passed on it.
The person who had kept her from being alone when she was locked up in a room had finally shown her what loneliness was when he walked away from her, leaving her alone in the crowded world she had craved for so long.
No one had the right to that kind of power.
She leaned back into the overstuffed vinyl seat of the speeding auto-rickshaw feeling awfully light.
It only made sense that losing a part of yourself would bring lightness.
No. She wasn’t doing that. She was not going all morose and doing the Tragic Princess shit anymore. That wasn’t her. No matter how people saw her, that was not her. Not anymore.
Actually, it had never been her. Why the hell was she letting herself go down that path now?
She was past the Rahul-induced sadness. Done with it. He’d made his intentions clear. They were no longer—well, they just weren’t anymore. Nothing, anything, they just weren’t.
Plato would ask if the fact that they weren’t anymore meant they had never been. Or was it Aristotle? You know who would know? The one person who she could not, would not, call for a fact check. This wasn’t a Tragic Princess thought, but here it was anyway: She had to stop thinking of life in terms of thoughts she saved up for Rahul like seashells collected on a walk along the beach. It was time.
Copyright © 2017 Sonali Dev
Praise for A DISTANT HEART:
“Dev crafts another thrilling story filled with intense drama, deep emotion, and well-developed characters; a can’t-put-down book.”—Library Journal, STARRED Review
“Thrilling action sequences and a complex, weighty romance propel this smart, sensitive story. A natural wordsmith, Dev dives into the psyches of disparate characters with voice-driven prose that includes both chilling insights and quirky humor… This poignant, sensual, and exciting tale captures a range of emotions and conflicts.”—Booklist, STARRED Review
“Award-winning Dev returns with another of her emotionally resonating stories that explore, in depth, the intersection of friendship, love, sacrifice and desperation… There is a tremendous richness to this story… A truly captivating tale of friendship and love. Dev always delivers!”—RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK!
“Searingly asks its characters what they’re willing to do for the people they love… explores family dynamics, class issues, and many layers of guilt, hope, and determination in ways that are both distinctly Indian and universally luminous. Another beautiful, breathtaking novel from a not-to-be-missed author.” – Kirkus, STARRED Review
About the author and where to find her:
Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.
Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s lists of Best Books of the year. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance 2014, and is a RITA® finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. She was hailed by NPR.org as a ‘stunning debut’.