Books › Leela’s Book

A modern-day epic about inter-faith politics, familial discord, and divine sagas.

Leela—haunted and taciturn—is moving back to Delhi from New York, having lived in self-imposed exile from India and her family. Twenty-two years earlier, her sister was seduced by the narcissistic Vyasa, and the fallout from the relationship drove Leela away. Now an eminent Sanskrit scholar, Vyasa is preparing for his son’s marriage. But when Leela arrives for the wedding, she disrupts the careful choreography of the ceremony, with its myriad attendees and their conflicting desires.

Presiding over the drama is Ganesh—divine, elephant-headed scribe of the Mahabharata, India’s great Sanskrit epic. The family may think they have arranged the wedding for their own selfish ends, but according to Ganesh it is he who is directing events, in a bid to save Leela, his beloved heroine, from Vyasa. As the the weekend progresses, secret online personas, maternal identities, and poetic authorships are all revealed; boundaries both religious and continental are crossed; and families are ripped apart and brought back together in this vibrant celebration of family, love and storytelling.

Shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award
Longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Leela's Book

“This is a bold and delightful novel, executed with energy and flair…. Albinia has pulled off the remarkable trick of melding a story about modern family ties with a timeless tale about gods and avatars… For a novel so thick in plot, and so lush with details of Indian life, it reads effortlessly. The result is magnificent.”

— Ángel Gurría-Quintana, The Financial Times

“Imagine all the drama, sexual intrigue, and familial discord of the ancient Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, retold in modern times with a satirical twist… a compelling and wildly entertaining tale unfolds.”

— Lizzie Crocker, The Daily Beast

“Albinia handles the complex plot and many, diverse characters she has created with skill and humor while at the same time offering an insightful look at the sociopolitical complexity of present-day India. A remarkable debut novel.”

— Gwen Vredevoogd, Library Journal (starred review)

Illustrated book cover by illustrator and printmaker Lynn Hatzius