books about redemption

Redemption and forgiveness go hand-in-hand, and many books do a fine job of exploring these two themes. Here, you’ll find books featuring convicts and murderers who go out of their way to redeem themselves. In another book, you’ll meet a coward who is seeking forgiveness by helping those he once failed to protect. You’ll also come across rich landlords, terrorists, Nazis and even a young girl looking for redemption. These books about redemption are sure to touch your heart.


The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini’s debut novel shot him to fame and is about the friendship between two young boys growing up in Afghanistan. Amir is from a wealthy family and is friends with Hassan, his father’s servant’s son. Amir does nothing when Hassan is raped by the local bully and ends up feeling guilty for his own cowardice. He thinks he can assuage his guilt if Hassan leaves, so he falsely accuses him of being a thief. Many years later, after Amir becomes a successful novelist living in the U.S.A., he returns to a now war-torn Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s family and seek redemption for himself. This book is as beautiful as it is tragic and as uplifting as it is depressing.

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Les Miserables

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Miserables has a strong theme of redemption. The story follows Jean Valjean, a convict who begins to see the virtue in being good after Bishop Myriel saves him from the police, despite Valjean having stolen the Bishop’s silver candlesticks. As a way to atone for all his past crimes, Valjean tries to help his fellowmen, but Inspector Javert doggedly pursues him, trying to bring him to justice. It is not just Valjean but even Javert himself, the prostitute Fantine, and a whole host of other characters who are on their own paths for redemption and seek forgiveness from one another and from God through the book.    

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Crime And Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Originally published as a 12-part series, Crime And Punishment is not just a classic work of Russian literature but also one of Dostoevsky’s finest books. Driven by poverty and dreams of grandeur, Rodion Raskolnikov, kills an unscrupulous pawnbroker, as well as her innocent sister, but is riddled with guilt and disgust. The story follows Raskolnikov as he seeks redemption in multiple ways- from giving what little money he has to a friend’s widow to finally turning himself in to the police.

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Gregory David Roberts

When a convicted Australian robber escapes Pentridge Prison, he somehow finds himself on Indian shores. Returning to Australia isn’t an option, and although India wasn’t a planned destination, it becomes his home. And, in this country, his journey of redemption for his crimes begins. He lives in the slums and sets up a free health clinic and even ends up fighting alongside freedom fighters in Afghanistan. Partly true and partly fiction, this grand novel explores the theme of redemption in great detail.

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The Ibis Trilogy

Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh’s glorious Ibis trilogy is a beautiful work of historical fiction that is set against the backdrop of the opium trade between India and China. While the story itself is very interesting, each character traverses his own path to redemption and comes out a better person. You have the wealthy and cruel Bengali zamindar Neel and the opium addict Ah-Fatt who band together to save a woman from being raped and an untouchable from being murdered; the widowed Shireen who was initially unaccepting of her husband’s infidelity but now travels to China to search for her late husband’s bastard; and the mixed-race Zachary who realises his folly of pretending to be white and tries to make amends. These beautiful and layered characters show us that redemption may not always be easy but it is worth it.   

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Sacred Games

Vikram Chandra

Indian crime fiction at its best, Sacred Games is the story of do-gooder cop, Sartaj Singh and dreaded don, Ganesh Gaitonde. The interesting part of the novel is that neither Singh nor Gaitonde are painted in black or white but in shades of grey and that both are in desperate need of redemption. Gaitonde has murdered his mother and cruelly gotten rid of any rival gang lords but after he falls in love and realises that his ‘guru’ is misleading him, he commits the ultimate sacrifice and kills himself to save Mumbai. Similarly, Singh has accepted bribes and considers himself responsible for the death of his constable, but still hasn’t forgotten his code of honour and redeems himself by doing what it takes to save the city. While the primary focus of the book is on these two characters, there are many insets and side-stories that are equally fascinating.

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Ian McEwan

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, McEwan’s Atonement is a fine piece of literature and deals mainly with the theme of redemption. An immature 13-year-old Briony witnesses her sister sleeping with their housekeeper’s son, Robbie, and presumes that it was rape. However, later, when she is the sole witness to an actual rape, she assumes the rapist must be Robbie and falsely accuses him. Robbie ends up in prison and this turn of events causes a deep estrangement within her family. It is only when Briony grows older that she realises her mistake. The novel ends with Briony facing dementia, atoning for her acts, and seeking redemption by penning a novel in which she confesses to her sins and gives the young-lovers a happy ending.   

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All The Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr

The Pulitzer Prize-winning All The Light We Cannot See is set against the backdrop of World War II. It is the story of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who is the protector of a magnificent blue diamond coveted by the Nazis, and a German orphan, Werner Pfennig, who works for the Nazis, but is eventually disgusted by their cruelty. Pfennig and his team manage to find LeBlanc and the diamond but, as a way of seeking forgiveness for the Nazis’ acts, he doesn’t let the diamond be taken or LeBlanc be killed. The lyrical quality of this book’s writing makes it a pleasure to read.

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God’s Little Soldier

Kiran Nagarkar

In  God’s Little Soldier, Nagarkar raises deep questions on redemption and forgiveness as he tackles the complex subject of terrorism and religious fanaticism. Zia Khan is a devout Muslim and a terrorist who mercilessly kills people in the name of God. His brother, Amanat, while devout himself, isn’t so extreme. As they share their beliefs with each other, Zia begins to question his own actions and wonder if what he’s doing is correct or not. In his search for redemption, he even turns to Christianity and tantrism, and learns that it doesn’t come at an easy price. This stunning Indian gem by a Sahitya Akademi Award-winner will definitely make you ponder upon blind faith in religion.

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As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in. Nirbhay is the co-founder and publisher of The Curious Reader.

You can read his articles, here.