The God of Small Things Book summary

Arundhati Roy




The God of Small Things is Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, published in 1997. The novel explores the life and downfall of a prosperous family of Syrian Christians, a sect of Christianity from Kerala that traces its conversion to St. Thomas. The novel is partly biographical since the author has a similar background to the protagonist. The book won significant success immediately after its publication due to its remarkably unique narrative structure as well as its poetic prose. It was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997. The God of Small Things is a poignant examination of the negative forces that work their way through human life such as hate, bigotry, and greed. 


Plot Summary


The God of Small Things is the story of misfortune that visits the Ipe family through three generations, and centers on the perspective of the last generation, which consists of a set of fraternal twins who experience deeply traumatic events during their childhood. The twins are hounded by the tragic past of their family well into adulthood. The twins reunite in their maternal home two decades after the tragic death of their cousin, Sophie, and attempt to move past it together. The twins were born to Ammu, who had eloped from home to marry a stranger she met during a wedding because she could not abide the thought of going back to her abusive father.

Ammu ends up married to a compulsive liar and an alcoholic, who attempts to trade her as a sexual object with his employer for the sake of his job. She moves back home to live with her abusive father, and her violin-playing mother, who now operates a pickle factory. Her sibling, Chacko, is a Rhodes scholar who returns to India after getting divorced from his British wife, Margaret, and leaving behind his infant daughter, Sophie. Chacko takes over the family pickle factory and forms a close relationship with her nieces and nephews. The Ipe family also consists of Baby Kochamma, who is Ammu and Chacko’s aunt as she is their father’s unwed younger sister. Baby is a petty and comical old lady who has been obsessively in love with an Irish monk who used to visit her father. She had attempted to be closer to him by becoming a catholic nun, but she could not withstand life at the convent.

The main action of the novel takes place in 1969, in Ayemenem, a coastal town of Southern India, when Chacko is visited by his ex-wife, Margaret, and his daughter, Sophie. The twins are loaded into a Plymouth along with Baby, Ammu, and Chacko as they go to receive them at the Cochin Airport. Baby is humiliated by a group of communists when their car is stopped by a passing rally, while Estha is sexually assaulted by a vendor at the movie theatre. Estha never discloses his trauma to anyone else, but Rahel, his twin, who believes that they share a Siamese soul feels the darkness gather inside him. They return to Ayemenem with their guests and proceed to have an enjoyable time during their two-week stay. Meanwhile, Estha begins to plan an escape to an abandoned house across the river because he is afraid that his molester can return at any time. Ammu begins to have a secret affair with a craftsman from the untouchable class, Velutha, a handsome and compassionate man. The discovery of the affair causes a huge scandal in the household, and Baby involves the police to ensure that their family name is not disgraced.

The twins cross the river in a boat with Sophie during the scandal at home, and Sophie drowns in the river. The police find Velutha in the same house where the twins are hiding and beat him to an inch of death. Baby forces the twins to implicate Velutha as their kidnapper to save herself from the offense of filing a false case against Velutha. He dies in police custody, and the twins are separated by Ammu’s family after they kick her out of the house. The twins wander through adult life until they return to Ayemenem twenty-five years after the tragedy. They make love to one another and attempt to overcome the demons that have haunted them since Sophie and Velutha’s death.

  • Author(s)

    Arundhati Roy
  • Publication date

    April 1, 1997

  • Language


  • Classification


  • Pages



Indian Literature


Random House

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