Such moments deepen Deo’s character and highlight the inequality of nearly every one of his New York relationships. His benefactors are eager to help. Yet Deo—robbed of his family, his future, and his country—is reluctant to accept their assistance, or even to admit that he needs it. The book’s inspiration is watered by an awful lot of humiliation and suffering. But by interweaving the good and the bad, and by illustrating the almost sadistic symbiosis of the two, Kidder deftly punctures whatever self-congratulating comforts we might take from Deo’s story. And to his credit, he ensures that readers will emerge both inspired and unsettled by the story, and grateful for the convergence of its author and subject.

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Gregory Beyer is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.