Local resident Cyril Mukalel's debut novel, "Life in a Faceless World," draws on his personal experiences of relocating to the United States from India, but Mukalel hopes the story will resonate with people from all backgrounds.
"If we start looking at what's common between us we will see more common things than different," Mukalel said in an interview with the Savage Pacer following his book release last month. "That invisible fence that we build around us, that goes away,"
The novel follows Nila, a young woman from India, as she relocates to the U.S. in an arranged marriage on a dependent visa. The story unfolds as she learns a new, unexpected culture and tries to hold on to her own.
"Written from the heart and mind of the displaced, Nila’s story explores what it means to be a voyager through the unknown, an immigrant in a land of immigrants, each vying for a place and a home," Mukalel writes about the novel. "It speaks to a connection while baring the soul of the global society we have created."
The book is published by Potter's Wheel Publishing. Mukalel serves on the Board of Directors, and said a group of writers founded the publishing house this year to better serve other writers.
Mukalel, originally from Kerala, India, has been a Savage resident for nearly 20 years.
"The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy, inspired Mukalel to write a novel depicting his culture and experiences.
"I was able to so much relate, and I thought, I want to write a book like that," he said.
His work on the novel took shape in 2013 when he was awarded the Inroads Fellowship from the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He'd previously written poetry, songs and plays, but the fellowship helped him polish his novel writing skills.
A turning point came for Mukalel's writing was when a writing coach told him not to worry about improving his English language skills.
"He said just keep dreaming, just write," he recalled.
"Life in a Faceless World" tells real stories through the frame of a fictional lost and found diary, Mukalel explained. Each chapter begins with an original poem.
The books delves into culture, assimilation, love and loss and explores how people overcome struggles.
"You get to know the culture of people from another perspective," he said. "That helps all immigrants."
Ultimately, he said he hopes the book will promote understanding between cultures and encourage friendships between across cultural lines.