We Move by Gurnaik Johal review – a colourful tapestry of multicultural lives

Johal weaves stories of Southall citizens with economy and skill in this compelling debut collection

“There were two different realities in the room,” writes Gurnaik Johal in the title story of We Move, a debut collection of such precocity and aplomb that it stands comparison to the likes of Junot Díaz and Bryan Washington. In Johal’s stories, different realities are always colliding and occasionally merging into one. This is busy fiction: he alternates viewpoints, builds his effects by accretion of brief details, rarely staying with one character or one scene for more than a page.

A striking example is the opening story, Arrival, which last month won the Galley Beggar Press short story prize. (I was one of the judges.) It’s barely 1,500 words long – five pages in the book – but it packs in multitudes. It brings to life a couple, Chetan and Aanshi, who live near Heathrow, have no car and let friends use their drive to save on airport parking. When one acquaintance doesn’t return for her car, they tentatively begin to use it as their own. Johal weaves the way this changes their lives with how they cope as the woman’s fiance turns up to reclaim the vehicle and their speculation on why she didn’t come back. It’s a perfect miniature.

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