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Choice: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

A three-part investigation that explores the tolls of altruism. As with a Michael Haneke film, it is a gut-punch that requires of its readers inward exploration and brings to question a lot of pre-supposed institutional ideas around “doing good” from all sides: those who want to help, those who witness help being done, and those who are helped. No one emerges unscathed, least of all the reader.


This is a necessary book for the early 21st century where we are all trying to investigate how one can live conscientiously in this complex world. This is a dark, complex, beautiful world that Mukherjee has crafted. It will haunt its readers and poses questions that will make them reassess their place in the world. This book really blew me away and while it is a hard one to try and distill, I genuinely think that it is a necessary read for the moment that we find ourselves, and also a challenging book about this moment because it doesn't offer any solutions.


What's a fable without the moral? That's what this is.

— From Jesse's Picks


An ingenious, devastating, explosive novel about the ramifications of choice from "one of the most original and talented authors working today" (NPR).

"How ought one to live?" This is the question that obsesses London-based publisher Ayush, driving him to question every act of consumption. He embarks on a radical experiment in his own life and the lives of those connected to him: his practical economist husband; their twins; and even the authors he edits and publishes. One of those authors, a mysterious M. N. Opie, writes a story about a young academic involved in a car accident that causes her life to veer in an unexpected direction. Another author, an economist, describes how the gift of a cow to an impoverished family on the West Bengal–Bangladesh border sets them on a startling path to tragedy.

Together, these connected narratives raise the question: How free are we really to make our own choices? In a scathing, compassionate quarrel with the world, Neel Mukherjee confronts our fundamental assumptions about economics, race, appropriation, and the tangled ethics of contemporary life.

About the Author

Neel Mukherjee is the author of four novels, including The Lives of Others, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; and A State of Freedom, a New York Times Notable Book. He divides his time between London, England, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Praise For…

Mukherjee is brilliant at tracing the ways a choice deferred becomes a fate sealed. But the book’s tripartite structure is even better at showing how we graze one another’s lives with our decisions, some of which may be catastrophic for our conscience but beneficial for our art…a strangely uplifting, exquisitely droll heartbreaker of a book. To be in the company of his cool, calm, all-noticing prose is to experience something like the helpless wonder his characters experience…The milk of human kindness can be found—but we may not have the power to stop it souring.
— Jonathan Lee - New York Times

There are no obviously right or wrong decisions in these stories, only a series of actions that trap the characters within their own set of consequences…Mr. Mukherjee pulls the reader into these problems with a seriousness and technical excellence that makes a lot of what is published today seem immature. Choice asks much of readers. But, for all its pessimism, it trusts us to be up to it.

— Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal

Like many contemporary writers, Mukherjee is anxious about injustice. But in this brilliant, bleak moral maze of a novel, where every right turn is a wrong one, we will find no lessons about what is to be done…even if Lenin lurks in the epigraphs. Choice is more like the tale of the enlightenment of Buddha, the awakened one (the woke one, we’d say today), which Ayush fixates on: it rouses our moral intuitions from privileged slumber and spurs us not to action, but to intricate contemplation of what actions mean.

— Tanjil Rashid - Guardian

Choice is full of moments like this: complex, happily contradictory little flowerings of correspondence that can really be appreciated only in retrospect…[Mukherjee] is capable of sustained stretches of syntactically enterprising, engagingly disputatious prose, at once conversational and poetically compressed…the result is a novel that is doubly decalmed: because it [has] qualms about the artifice of novelistic convention and because it passes up the opportunity offered by the alternative, to dramatize by presenting an argument that isn't settled in advance.

— Nat Segnit - Times Literary Supplement

…beautifully written. There are countless wonderful descriptions…and subtle psychological insights.
— Benjamin Markovits - Telegraph

Mukherjee impresses. He captivates readers but also stimulates them by rigorously exploring race, agency, equality, the weight of our moral quandaries and the implications of our choices.
— Malcolm Forbes - Minneapolis Star Tribune

These pages abound with misery: animal mistreatment, the harsh plight of refugees, and dire poverty. But the rewards—indelible images, admirable story-telling, and wicked good writing—are many.
— Barbara Love - Library Journal (starred review)

Probing and ambitious, this is an engaging work from a fabulously gifted writer.
— Alexander Moran - Booklist

Mukherjee puts his piercing intelligence and fine technique to the service of urgent issues and gargantuan choices, in a world where simple solutions are rarely available…a determinedly provocative work of fiction—passionate, graphic, and uncomfortable.
— Kirkus

Searing, poetic and beautifully brutal, Choice reveals just how far the imagination—when buoyed by courage and conscience—can travel. One realization I take with me from Mukherjee’s intrepid prose is this: to be honest in our living, and to refuse despair, is to assent to a whole new vocabulary of humility.

— Tracy K. Smith, author of To Free the Captives

Neel Mukherjee is a great novelist…He knows how to clothe ethical conflicts with sweeping narrative and convincing detail. The range of his knowledge—from London intellectual and professional life today to the precarious hardships of the ‘ultra-poor’ in Bengal—is shockingly deep. He is a writer of genius.
— Edmund White, author of The Humble Lover

Choice is Neel Mukherjee’s best book yet: a brooding meditation on the complexities of agency and duty, freedom and guilt, in a savagely unequal world. It’s a vital, haunting, devastating read.

— Sarah Waters, author of The Paying Guests

A searing indictment of neoliberal folly, a profound and beautiful meditation on compassion, Choice is exactly the kind of novel we need now—the kind that nobody but Neel Mukherjee can write.

— Paul Murray, author of The Bee Sting

A magnificent accomplishment. In each panel of this masterful triptych—or each movement of this classical sonata—exquisite prose gradually crescendos to jaw-dropping revelations…Choice is a deeply human novel, and a humane one…We come to realize, to feel through experiencing the successive waves of the novel’s movements, that a human life is not simply the result of rational choices but rather, as Neel Mukherjee puts it, the lull between them—a rich and swaying lull, thick with love and responsibility.

— Namwali Serpell, author of The Furrows

This book speaks to our present moment with such intelligence as to move it from the merely brilliant to the vitally important. Kaleidoscopic yet intimate, philosophical yet affecting, Choice is a stunning, haunting accomplishment.

— Karen Joy Fowler, author of Booth

Choice burns brightly with fierce intelligence, with wisdom and compassion, and achieves what so few novels even attempt: it makes the reader think deeply about how we’ve come to live this way, at what cost, and about those who pay the greatest price.

— Monica Ali, author of Love Marriage

Neel Mukherjee’s keen eyes, formidable intelligence, masterful scalpel, and compassionate approach offer us reassurance and hope without any illusion.
— Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose

Choice is perhaps the most brilliant novel I’ve read this year. It is the reminder of why we need fiction. Profound and devastating, Choice is as dark and hauntingly beautiful as it gets. A masterpiece of the highest order.

— A.M. Homes, author of The Unfolding

Here is a magnificently clear-eyed portrait of our times lit equally by sorrow and rage. Neel Mukherjee is a superb writer, and Choice is his greatest work yet.

— Michelle de Kretser, author of Scary Monsters
Product Details
ISBN: 9781324075011
ISBN-10: 1324075015
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English