Review: The Things That We Lost by Jyoti Patel (2023)


Nik has lots of questions about his late father but knows better than to ask his mother, Avani. It’s their unspoken rule.

When his grandfather dies, Nik has the opportunity to learn about the man he never met. Armed with a key and new knowledge about his parents’ past, Nik sets out to unlock the secrets that his mother has been holding onto his whole life.

As the carefully crafted portrait Avani has painted for her son begins to crack, and painful truths emerge, can the two of them find their way back to each other?

The Things That We Lost is a beautifully tender exploration of family, loss and the lengths to which we go to protect the ones we love.


Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a proof copy in exchange for an honest review. Apologies for not managing to post this before publication!

The Things That We Lost is a beautiful debut. It is in some ways a quiet book, despite the dramatic events buried within it, focusing on the intricacies of family dynamics and the nuances of British Asian identity, and the novel is all the richer for it. The complexity of the characters brings them to life – Nik and Avani are especially layered and realistic, but all of the characters in the book exist within a web of unspoken words and past regrets that feels poignantly believable.

There is a steady accumulation of details, and of secrets, that carefully excavates the stories these characters carry within them. The way that Nik’s father, Elliot, gradually comes into focus is so cleverly done – sometimes when a character is only revealed to us through flashbacks, it can be hard to feel invested in him, but the author does a fantastic job of slowly bringing him out of the shadows of the past and letting us get to know him in a brilliant echo of the way that Nik, finally, comes to know more about his father.

The writing is lyrical and gentle, but full of piercing insight. What I admired most about it is the fact that both Nik and Avani are such sympathetic characters, despite the fact that their actions are sometimes misguided. They feel so real – and we see Nik, especially, in so many different contexts that it feels like we get a rich and full picture of the many complicated strands of his personality. We come to a really deep understanding of their feelings and motivations, and by the end of the novel, which is left slightly open, the satisfaction comes from knowing that they have both taken ownership of their stories.

The Things That We Lost is an act of recovery, of excavation, of reclaiming the past and putting its pieces back together in the hands of those who need it most. It’s beautiful and moving, and it’s a book that will stay with me. I can’t wait to see what Jyoti Patel writes next.

The Things That We Lost by Jyoti Patel is out now with Merky Books and is available to purchase here.


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