This semi-autobiographical novel by Gregory David Roberts takes an Australian prison-escapee on a journey in Bombay, where he assumes a new identity (Lin) to hide from the police. There he meets and falls in love with a Swiss-American woman and befriends an Indian tour guide named Prabaker. Lin is forced to reside in the slums of Bombay, but with his positive outlook on life, he starts up a free health clinic for the poverty-suffering community and becomes fluent in the local language. Unfortunately, his criminal history catches up with him and he is recruited by the Mumbai underworld.
This is the most honest (though fictionalized) and beautiful novel I have ever read. The wise and optimistic voice creates an atmosphere of peace in the book, even when Lin is suffering violent beatings from the police and gangsters, and when he is faced with the terrifying poverty and illness of the slums of Bombay. The word Shantaram means "Man of God's Peace," and this is certainly what Gregory David Roberts is. Though it is over 1000 pages long, it is a book that every person must read.