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Praise for The City of Good Death

  • "The City of Good Death, winner of the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing … displays an earnest attempt at vividly capturing the life of the characters and of Kashi through the author's lush and evocative prose…. [O]ne starts reading The City of Good Death, diving into its wonderful descriptive passages that bring to life the ancient city of Kashi and its age-old customs and rituals, the conglomeration of devotees, the constantly bustling streets, and the holy river Ganga. Within this landscape, Champaneri weaves the threads of her story about the living and the dead, love and mourning…. Through these interconnected threads, Champaneri's sprawling novel delicately navigates the relations of life and death, childhood and memory, love, hate, friendship, human bonding, and relationships that are beyond human understanding…. Wonderful images—languid mornings over Ganga, bustling bazaars, the awkward seriousness of the death hostel, the green fields of Pramesh's village, crowded railway carriages—pervade this voluminous work." —Suparno Banerjee, Los Angeles Review of Books


  • "What stands out...is Champaneri's depiction of the Hindu rituals and traditions that surround the final days of a person's life.... The final third of the novel becomes a glorious, moving testament to moksha, to liberating the soul from the burdens of the past. The City of Good Death not only showcases Champaneri's cultural background, but it also forefronts the manner in which family can both hurt and heal that is both deeply spiritual and emotionally satisfying." Ian Mond, Locus Magazine

  • "What I appreciated most as the tension built were the small, painstaking details Champaneri leaves for the reader—like a woman watching everything from her window—and the way the story rewards the close reader by building on these small details as the story develops.... This introspection about our pasts and the way we make sense of our early lives is one of the most compelling parts of the novel and one of many ways in which The City of Good Death is a deep and reflective story." Lauren Woods, DCTrending

  • "Throughout this epic, Champaneri remains attuned to such atmospheric details, both physical and emotional. Set in the holy city of Kashi, where Hindus travel to 'die a death that was the best one could hope for on this Earth'—one that ends the cycle of 'rebirths and miseries'—the novel pays particular attention to the topographies of mourning…. Champaneri subtly renders how grief lurks in mundane objects and gestures…. The novel remains an intimate portrait of Pramesh, and yet the other characters allow Champaneri to articulate how grief and healing are social processes…. Just as grief descends, sudden and sweeping, so too can wonder and joy." Spencer Quong, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Champaneri's descriptive prose is precise and evocative…. The classic cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter isn't contrived but integral to the story and its arcs. Making full use of the mysticism and magnetism of Kashi, Champaneri immerses us in a city teeming with as much life as death.Jenny Bhatt, Minneapolis Star Tribune


  • "What follows is an astounding mystery in which nothing cooperates as it should—not even the dead…. As the city stirs with gossip and intrigue, Pramesh and Shobha deal with hauntings of all kinds, their stories weaving around one another to reveal the intersection of love and grief, and perhaps even illuminating some of the mysteries of the Land of the Dead." The Arkansas International

  • "The City of Good Death is the debut novel of Priyanka Champaneri but it has the confidence of a master storyteller. Drawing on the rich literary traditions of Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, Champaneri's epic saga will satisfy armchair travelers thirsty for adventure, and sick of looking out their windows." Chicago Review of Books

  • "In Champaneri's ambitious, vivid debut, the dying come to the holy city of Kashi to die a good death that frees them from the burden of reincarnation.... In sharp prose, Champaneri explores the power of stories—those the characters tell themselves, those told about them, and those they believe.... This epic, magical story of death teems with life." Publishers Weekly

  • "The City of Good Death is a reflection on dying and on life and love and all the complications that living and dying entail. Told in accessible, evocative prose, it takes the reader into the hearts of its characters and the dilemmas they must resolve to maintain the relationships they value. This is a beautiful book unlike any other I have read recently, and forever the images of the river Ganges and the characters―the living and the dead―that populate its banks will remain with me." Helon Habila, author of Travelers and Oil on Water

  • "The City of Good Death is an extraordinary novel―beautifully written, rich in characters of great complexity and passion―a family story at once familiar and exotic. I loved this novel of life and death, of time and memory. It has the depth of feeling and particularity of scene that transports the reader from the world as we know it to the world we discover and cannot forget in the death hostel in Kashi. There is so much in these characters to love and admire. I could not put the book down." Susan Richards Shreve, author of More News Tomorrow

  • "In intricate detail and with remarkable skill, Champaneri writes a powerful tale about the pull of the past and our aching need to understand the mysteries and misunderstandings that thwart our relationships. An atmospheric and immersive debut with a rich cast of characters you won't soon forget." Marjan Kamali, author of The Stationery Shop

  • "This contemplative debut novel, rendered with evocative prose, will make you think about life, death and redemption, together with its cast of finely drawn characters." Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of The Shape of Family

  • "Brimming with characters whose lives overlap and whose stories interweave, Champaneri's exquisite debut delves into the consequences of the past, and how stories that are told can become reality even when they contain barely a shred of truth. As Pramesh discovers, the bitterness of past wounds can bring hope for redemption and life." Bridget Thoreson, Booklist

  • "The City of Good Death reads so like the book of a seasoned author, it is hard to believe it is Champaneri's first. From the opening words she pulls you in, weaves you into the threads of Kashi, a city where people flock to die and others flee to a new life. Her impeccable sentences move through you like the river at the city's heart, tides of happiness interrupted by rising storms of fear, mystery, and difficult love. It is a book where magic lies right alongside the mess and beauty of human life, a book about family, tradition, and forgiveness, about finding your way even if it means turning your back on where you are from. It's the sort of book that, as I wait for the author's next work of genius, I will not be able to resist reading it again." Lisa Carey, author of The Stolen Child

  • "...This character-rich, atmospheric novel, winner of the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, is a delightful mix of humor, heartbreak, and insight." Cindy Pauldine, the river's end bookstore

  • "Lush prose evokes the thick, close atmosphere of Kashi and the intricate religious practices upon which life and death depend. Rumor and superstition hold sway over even the most level-headed people, twisting what's explainable into something extraordinary―with tragic consequences…. The City of Good Death is a breathtaking, unforgettable novel about how remembering the past is just as important as moving on." Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

  • "Champaneri's Kashi is teeming and vivid ... the book frequently charms, and it's as full of humor, warmth, and mystery as Kashi's own marketplace." Kirkus Reviews
  • "Keep watch, folks. This novel asks big, big questions about what we believe, what we assume, how we love, what family means, and the ways in which ritual makes reality and vice versa." Ilana Masad, author of All My Mother's Lovers
  • "This is an insightful look at the Hindu traditions surrounding death and 'funerals' in the Holy City of Kashi. We go inside the hostel and see the life of Pramesh and his family, as they faithfully attend to the families coming with the bodies of their loved ones. But when a corpse shows up after being found in the river, it is not easy to '…Not look back. Detach,' as they always tell the family members. There is a history here and their own family is soon embroiled in an emotional turmoil that changes everything. This is a remarkable cultural story but also one of common humanity. Book clubs will want to give it a look." Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore

  • "I was transported to India by this debut novel for which the author won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Well deserved, too. A recurring theme is looking back or not looking back and the consequences of both. Moving story of cousins who are more like twin brothers growing up with their two abusive, denigrating fathers. And the choices each makes. Don't pass this one up." Barbara Lubin, White Birch Books

  • "The City of Good Death is an expansive novel about the proprietor of a death hostel, Pramesh, in India' s sacred city of Banaras, where Hindus come to die a holy death, and the sweeping journey of discovery he embarks upon after finding his cousin and childhood best friend drowned in the Ganges. Priyanka Champaneri beautifully explores the sacred and the afterlife in this cinematic and emotionally gripping work about living and dying with dignity. A first-generation immigrant who was born and raised in the United States, Champaneri draws on her personal navigation of identity and culture, reconciling her Indian heritage and Hindu faith with her Western upbringing. The City of Good Death confronts family, religion, and belonging in ways that reflect Champaneri's cultural dualities. It's a novel full of compassion, as Champaneri deftly navigates Pramesh's relationships with his dying patrons as he himself struggles to understand the ramifications of his cousin's death. Introducing readers to an unforgettable cast of characters who all cross paths in Pramesh's hostel on this holy pilgrimage, this ambitious novel offers readers a unique insight into the Hindu concepts of the afterlife and the sacred, and the universally recognizable desire for empathy and understanding." Téa Obreht, author of Inland, and Ilan Stavans, publisher of Restless Books, citation for the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing