Passage West tells the story of Ram Singh, who arrives in the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border in 1914, reluctantly accepting his friend Karak’s offer of work and partnership in a small cantaloupe farm. Ram is unmoored; fleeing violence in Oregon, he desperately longs to return to his wife and newborn son in Punjab—but is duty-bound to make his fortune first.
In the Valley, American settlement is still new and the rules are ever-shifting. Alongside Karak, Jivan and his wife Kishen, and Amarjeet, a US soldier, Ram struggles to farm in the unforgiving desert. When he meets an alluring woman who has fought in Mexico’s revolution, he strives to stay true to his wife. The Valley is full of settlers hailing from distant cities and different continents. The stakes are high and times are desperate —just one bad harvest or stolen crop could destabilize a family. And as anti-immigrant sentiment rises among white residents, the tensions of life in the West finally boil over.
This unforgettable debut novel unflinchingly asks the enduring question: Who is welcome in America? Richly imagined and beautifully rendered, Passage West offers a moving portrait of one man’s search for home and belonging amid the tangled ideology of America.
- Recommended by The Bustle, Book Riot, Ms. Magazine, and The Millions