As he did in the award-winning One Part Woman, in his newest novel, The Story of a Goat, Perumal Murugan explores a side of India that is rarely considered in the West: the rural lives of the country’s farming community. He paints a bucolic yet sometimes menacing portrait, showing movingly how danger and deception can threaten the lives of the weakest through the story of a helpless young animal lost in a world it naively misunderstands.
As the novel opens, a farmer in Tamil Nadu is watching the sunset over his village one quiet evening when a mysterious stranger, a giant man who seems more than human, appears on the horizon. He offers the farmer a black goat kid who is the runt of the litter, surely too frail to survive. The farmer and his wife take care of the young she-goat, whom they name Poonachi, and soon the little goat is bounding with joy and growing at a rate they think miraculous for such a small animal. Intoxicating passages from the goat’s perspective offer a bawdy and earthy view of what it means to be an animal and a refreshing portrayal of the natural world. But Poonachi’s life is not destined to be a rural idyll—dangers can lurk around every corner, and may sometimes come from surprising places, including a government that is supposed to protect the weak and needy. Is this little goat too humble a creature to survive such a hostile world?