The book, by Gregory David Roberts, is an amazing tale of adventure, betrayal, suffering, and personal growth. The quick summary follows: Roberts escapes from an Australian maximum security prison where he is serving a time for armed robbery. Via New Zealand, he flees to Bombay, where the magic begins.
He quickly settles in Bombay, learns Hindi and Marathi, and opens himself up to the love and friendship of the city's residents. His journey includes a long stint as a slum doctor, time in the Bombay mafia, and a journey into Afghanistan via Pakistan to join the mujaheddin in fighting the Russians. In between the adventures, he wrestles with the meaning of life, suffers through hellish bouts in Indian jails, and grows from a hardened ex-con into a man that is the full reflection of the complexities of life, both good and bad.
I loved every page - all 800+ of them - and if you are looking for a book to get lost in on vacation, flying across the country, etc., Shantaram is one for the ages.