Do you believe in destiny? It’s a question central to Nikesh Shukla’s latest novel, The One Who Wrote Destiny, and one you’ll grapple with yourself as you enter the world of the Jani family.
While destiny is an age-old concept, Nikesh’s exploration of it is anything but. The narrative, which spans four relatives over three generations, interweaves pertinent conversations of race, ethics, fame, identity, and family, to create a thoroughly modern exploration of what it means to be alive. Using a unique combination of humour, pop culture, and raw emotion, Nikesh tells the chequered history of the Janis - a Gujarati family living in Bradford.
Nikesh explains: “The One Who Wrote Destiny is a multigenerational story of the fates and fortunes of the Jani family. It starts in 1966 when Mukesh arrives from Kenya thinking he’s in the suburbs of London, when actually he’s ended up in Keighley. The story then follows him through the eighties to the present day following his children around. We get to see the family fall in and out of love, and in and out of trouble. It’s about destiny, race, immigration and all of the bleak things that I write about quite a lot.”
In The One Who Writes Destiny, Nikesh spins a web of interrelated but distinctly unique stories that highlight the individuality of human experience. No matter how close, how connected, or how similar your backgrounds, there is no one-size fits all, no right way to do life, and no such thing as ‘the good immigrant’.
Of course, The Good Immigrant is also the title of the groundbreaking essay collection Nikesh edited, and this third novel explores many of the same themes. In this fictional format Nikesh is able to pack an emotional punch that feels intensely personal - and it is.
Nikesh explains: “I’ve been trying to write this novel since I was 19 years old. I had this kernel of an idea; my uncle is the first person to have ever brought a case of racial discrimination under the Race Relations Act, which is this tiny but significant bit of UK history. I really wanted to write a novel that talked about that case, but also married it with present day issues. I wanted to create an intergenerational conversation about race and racism, but at 19 I didn’t know how.”
The One Who Wrote Destiny is the novel Nikesh has been waiting to write for just short of a decade. It was definitely worth the wait.