The Association of Small Bombs, a Penguin/Random House 2016 release and finalist for 2016's National Book Award, was a bit of a disappointment for me. It began very strongly, and I settled in to be wowed. I loved the plot arc of the book, which begins with several pre-teen boys who are caught in a marketplace bombing in Delhi, India. The bulk of the book explores the lives of the survivors and their families and how their future is impacted by this bombing.
Where the book began to lose its power for me was in the character development of all the characters. There was so much potential to create deep, rich characters, but it was squandered in characters who were predictable and showed very little in the way of the profound impact that the bombing should have had on their lives.
Three stars is, for me, not a terrible rating. I enjoyed the book for its plot and for embracing the difficult subject of Muslim/Hindi relations in modern day India, showcasing two particular families, one from each side of the divide, as they struggle to maintain a friendship in the midst of all the religious turmoil. Unfortunately, I am very much a person who reads for character development above all other aspects, so this one fell a bit short for me.
I would still recommend the book, especially if this is a subject which fascinates you or one about which you would like to learn a little more. It is a short, fast-paced read and worth the time spent. If you prefer an audio, the narration by Neil Shah was quite good. He gave the predominant characters distinctive voices, had great pacing (I do listen to most of my audios at 1.5), and carried the dramatic moments without going over-the-top.