By Suchitra Behal

No God in Sight, Altaf Tyrewala, Penguin, Rs. 195. THERE is a certain brutality that clings to these odd lives. An abortionist who convinces himself of the "good" of his mission; a butcher who uses his skill to stop a heinous crime taking place; a polio-ridden young man whose marriage has become an event; and others like them who live in the lanes and bylanes of a teeming metropolis called Mumbai.Munaf's rejection because of his polio, and the final acceptance by one young lady is a poignant statement on society. There is the abortionist who runs a seedy clinic in the lanes of the city. Young girls, married and unmarried, come to seek his services. Some with their distraught boyfriends, others alone and despondent. He helps them all till it seems the cries of the unborn will strangle him. Through these unusual vignettes, Altaf Tyrewala knits a portrait of a city where hope and despair often jostle for space. His sketches of the lives of these unknown faces is so real that sometimes you feel you know them. .

Patna Roughcut, Siddharth Chowdhury, Picador India, Rs. 250. RITWIK RAY comes back to his hometown as a reporter with the local English daily. Eager to meet once again all the people he had grown up with, Ray arrives at the local adda. His cast remains the same except for one or two, but their stature, much like their girth, has changed. Somewhere time has taken its toll and the grown men seem to have lost their lustre. For Ray, there is a certain disconnect in the present-day scenario. Even as he takes in the friendly jibes and gets into the flavour of things, he reminisces about the past. Through a series of seesaw emotions and recollections, Ray relives his childhood. He traces his path from school in a small town to his days at Delhi University, campus politics and sepia-tinted memories. Author Siddharth Chowdhury swings between realism and romanticism, arriving at an unusual climax. Brooklyn Follies, Paul Auster, Faber and Faber, price not stated. WHEN Nathan retires from his job as an insurance agent and discovers he has cancer, he has little to live for. So he decides to move to a new place — somewhere quiet and nice. But, fate has other plans and he bumps into his nephew Tom, who, once an aspiring and bright academic, is living the life of a bitter recluse. Fat and forty, Tom, is no longer the sharp young blade Nathan spent so many hours conversing with. But in this strange new place, their friendship rekindles on a new ground. As the two cruise along, Nathan's "lost" niece, Tom's rebel sister, sends her daughter Lucy into their lives. With Lucy's arrival, her refusal to speak about her mother's whereabouts and her strange erratic behaviour, their lives take a turn into the fast lane. Paul Auster builds up his characters but melting them eventually into a crucible of broken dreams and aspirations tinged with human folly. Don't skip this one.