book cover of Habitations


A novel by

A young academic moves from India to the United States, where she navigates first love, a green card marriage, single motherhood, and more in this “delightful novel, written with immediacy, warmth, and wry humor” (Ha Jin, National Book Award–winning author of Waiting).

Vega Gopalan is adrift. Still reeling from the death of her sister years earlier, she leaves South India to attend graduate school at Columbia University. In New York, Vega straddles many different worlds, eventually moving in and out of a series of relationships that take her through the striving world of academia, the intellectual isolation of the immigrant suburbs, and, ultimately, the loneliness of single motherhood. But it is the birth of Vega’s daughter that forces the novel’s central question: What does it mean to make a home?

Written with dry humor and searing insight,
Habitations is an intimate story of identity, immigration, expectation and desire, and of love lost and found. But it is also a universal story of womanhood, and the ways in which women are forced to navigate multiple loyalties: to family, to community, and to themselves.

A profound meditation on the many meanings of home and on the ways love and kinship can be found, even in the most unfamiliar of places,
Habitations introduces Sheila Sundar as an electrifying new voice in literary fiction.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Habitations is a delightful novel, written with immediacy, warmth, and wry humor. Covering dramas both personal and universal, Sundar offers insightful reflections on the desire for arrival and the longing for return. This is a significant addition to migrant fiction." - Ha Jin

"Sheila Sundar's irresistible debut is a provocative meditation on grief, desire, and the unexpected ways the two entangle. Brimming with emotional intricacies, crisp prose, and sly humor, HABITATIONS traverses the complicated, intimate politics and promises of the places we seek to call 'home'." - Deesha Philyaw

"A striking reflection on migration, family, loss and home, and a vital portrait of race in American academia. Through sharp, up-close narration, we share Vega Gopalan's piercing observations about the world that surrounds her, and the friends, loves, and city-dwelling strangers that come to shape her life as she tries to find her place in it." - Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

"Masterful storytelling. A sweeping, immersive and utterly perfect debut of a new talent and a fresh perspective on the Indian diaspora. In its multilayered, nuanced way, this novel will teach you about the strength of family, the force of love, the power of hope and the resilience of spirit. In other words, HABITATIONS will take you fearlessly by the hand and remind you of the purpose of living." - Weike Wang

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