The Year of the Runaways | Penguin Random House Canada

The Year of the Runaways

A novel

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Nominated for the Man Booker Prize. One of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013 gives us a sweeping, urgent, contemporary epic about a year in the life of a group of young illegal immigrants living and working together in the north of England.
Three young men from very different backgrounds come together in a journey from India to England, where they hope to begin something new. To support their families; where they can, to build their future; to show their worth; to escape the past. They have almost no idea of what awaits them.

In a dilapidated shared house in Sheffield, Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his life in Bihar. Avtar has a secret that binds him to the unpredictable Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town, whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes in case the immigration men surprise her with a visit.

She is Narinder, and her story is the most surprising of all.

Utterly absorbing and beautiful, sweeping in scope, The Year of the Runaways is written with compassion touched by grace. As Tochi, Avtar, Randeep and Narinder negotiate their dreams, desires and shocking realities, as their histories continue to pull at them, as the seasons pass, what emerges is a novel of overwhelming humanity: one which asks how far we can decide our own course in life, and what we should do for love, for faith, and for family.

From the Hardcover edition.


1. Woven throughout the narrative of The Year of the Runaways is a complex exploration of class and economics. Discuss the rigidity of the class system in India. How does social class prohibit or grant economic opportunities for the characters in the novel? Does social class carry the same significance...

Read More


LONGLISTED 2017 – International Dublin Literary Award
SHORTLISTED 2016 – International Dylan Thomas Prize
FINALIST 2015  Man Booker Prize
FINALIST 2015 – Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer Award

Novels of such scope and invention are all too rare; unusual, too, are those of real heart, whose characters you grow to love and truly care for. The Year of the Runaways has it all. The action spans continents, taking in a vast sweep of politics, religion and immigration; it also examines with tenderness and delicacy the ties that bind us, whether to family, friends or fellow travellers. Judges of forthcoming literary prizes need look no further. . . . The novel closes with a glimpse of Narinder in Kanyakumari, at the very southernmost tip of India. For sheer emotion and vertigo-inducing anxiety, the scene ranks with Tess putting the letter under Angel Clare’s door, or Omar Sharif catching sight of Julie Christie on a moving bus in the film of Dr Zhivago. You cry because of the terribleness of it, but also because you just don’t want this book to end. Sunjeev Sahota is an absolutely wonderful writer. It is amazing that this book, so rich, so absorbing, so deftly executed, should be only his second. I doubt if I’ll read a better novel this year.” —Cressida Connolly, The Spectator
“Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel makes a nonsense of common assumptions about what it means to write a political novel. . . . The question of the responsibilities borne by the citizens of the more fortunate nations of the world towards those from other countries is at the heart of Narindar’s story, but it is told in the most intimate of ways, as an issue that is not theorised but deeply felt. And the question remains open all the way to the end. . . . Sahota is a writer who knows how to turn a phrase, how to light up a scene, how to make you stay up late at night to learn what happens next. This is a novel that takes on the largest questions and still shines in its smallest details. . . . Through these stories and others, Sahota moves some of the most urgent political questions of the day away from rhetorical posturing and contested statistics into the realm of humanity. The Year of the Runaways is a brilliant and beautiful novel.” —Kamila Shamsie, The Guardian
“Should be compulsory reading. A magnificent achievement.” —Daily Mail
Within an hour, nothing short of an asteroid impact would have made me put the book down. . . . The characters leap from the pages. He builds his fictional world so deftly that you are left with an overwhelming sense of an encounter with a world that is, somehow, real. So if you want your summer reading to a) bring you to a world that is so different to your own as to amount to a parallel universe and b) make you actually give a damn, he’s your man.” —Arminta Wallace, The Irish Times
“A wonderfully evocative storyteller.” —The Independent
“A rich, intricate, beautifully written novel, bursting and seething with energy.” —The Times

“Sahota has the great ability to hew so closely to a character’s point of view that the reader doesn’t even realize how warped and narrow an understanding of the world they have until Sahota methodically shreds the layers of illusion, a revelation invisible to the characters themselves. . . . [The Year of the Runaways] is no story of acculturation and assimilation, but of straddling worlds, and layering old ways of being on a new geography. . . . Sahota moves easily between these multiple voices and perspectives. He is also better than many male authors at writing believably from a woman’s perspective.” —SFGate
“Sunjeev Sahota has written what I suspect will be the finest novel of the year. . . . Sahota, a British writer of Indian origin, has written not only a timely book, but a gut-wrenching, emotionally honest one, as well. . . . There are plenty of twists and turns to the story but Sahota’s tension is created instead through the tenderness of his characters—their enormous restraint and empathy, their depth of feeling, combined with a willingness to hurt, to make bad decisions, to wound. . . . Sahota also does a masterful job of dissecting the immigrant experience. . . . [The Year of the Runaways] carried me with its power and honesty. And I loved the understated yet utterly compelling ending (no, not all the knots get tied up neatly). The stories of Tochi, Randeep, Avtar and Narinder will stay with me long after I'd put the book down.” —Nishant Dahiya, NPR