Just because NPR talks up a book and just because it was "shortlisted" for a prize does not make a book good. Perhaps my expectations were higher because of these things, but I still didn't find anything great between the covers.
Balram is a poor Indian man who happens to get a good job as a driver for the son of a local landlord-mafia-type character. The mafia son seems to have more of a conscience than those he associates with and, in fact, seems to be the nicest person in the story. And at the very beginning of the story, Balram announces that there are "wanted" posters all over India with his face on it because he killed his nice boss and his family in the worst way you can imagine.
So here we have this build up at the beginning of the story to this awful murder that's supposed to have taken place. And you continue to read and read and read trying to find out why the main character is so awful. You don't actually encounter the murder of his boss until 30 pages from the end. And he only assumes his family has been killed by the landlord-mafia-group as a result of him murdering his boss. The murder isn't a grisly one and all the story leading up to it is quite mundane.
The only thing I can imagine that people are enamored by in this story is that it shows how a poor man in India (at least in this case) is only able to rise to greatness by killing a nice rich man. And it seems that Balram has learned not to let the little guy take the blame. Apparently, money can buy anything ... even reprieve from murder.Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.