Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa

Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa dressed for mountaineering, holding a sheet of paper with logo and the name Everest
Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa.

Sonam’s Surprise by Nikki Nichols is a literary gem that transcends the boundaries of a traditional novel. With a backdrop as stunning as the Himalayas, Nichols weaves a tale that goes beyond a simple narrative; it’s a cultural exploration, an adventure, and a heartfelt tribute to Nepal. The story unfolds against the majestic canvas of the Everest Base Camp, delving into the lives of the Sherpa community, their history, and their indispensable role as guides and porters in the challenging terrains of the Himalayas.

The narrative is deeply rooted in the author’s personal experiences during a trek to the Everest Base Camp in the 1970s, where she encountered a young boy named Sonam. Nichols’ affection for Nepal is not just evident; it’s the beating heart of the story. Her love for the country and its people becomes the driving force behind a narrative that feels both authentic and culturally rich.

The journey of Sonam’s Surprise is as intriguing as the tale itself. Originating as a short story written during Nichols’ stay in Nepal, it remained tucked away in her attic for years. However, the story refused to stay dormant, and its reawakening is a fascinating narrative in its own right. Nichols revisited the story in the home of the Watters family, known for their work in rural Nepal, as chronicled in “At the Foot of the Snows.” Surrounded by photographs and books that encapsulated the essence of Nepal, the story began to take shape again.

Collaboration played a crucial role in bringing Sonam’s Surprise to life. The Watters family, who had their own profound connection with Nepal, became instrumental in breathing life back into the narrative. The guidance of experienced authors Joyce Major and Rita Golden Gelman added layers to the storytelling process. Rita, in particular, encouraged Nichols to return to Khumjung, an experience tha t would prove invaluable in enriching the cultural authenticity of the novel. The return to Khumjung in 2022 was not just a revisit; it was a pilgrimage back to the roots of the story. Guided by Tej Bikram Shahi, a Nepali school headmaster and trekking guide, Nichols was able to delve deeper into the cultural intricacies of the region. Tej’s insights and his love for the character Sonam added layers to the narrative, making the fictitious character feel alive and grounded in the cultural reality of the Sherpa community.

A significant contribution to the novel comes from the illustrator, Niroj Bade. Hailing from the ancient community of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, Niroj’s masterful use of pen and ink brings the story to life in vivid detail. His MFA background and fascination with traditional cultures, festivals, and dances are evident in the intricate illustrations that accompany the narrative. The decision to draw the pictures with pen and ink adds a timeless quality to the visual elements of the book.

The collaborative spirit extended beyond the core team, involving readers of various ages and backgrounds. Cooper, Charlotte, and Mia, representing the younger audience, along with adults Maria Stobie, Marilyn Love, Mary Edwards, Sasha Elias, Susan Howlett, Suzanne Tedesko, and international input from Alexander Kokic Schmidt from Australia, Daniel Watters, and Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa from Nepal, provided invaluable feedback during the developmental stages of the story.

Professional editors Sally Apokedak, a literary agent and teacher, and Cori Adler, a copy editor, played crucial roles in refining the manuscript. Their expertise ensured that Sonam’s Surprise achieved a polished quality, striking a delicate balance between cultural authenticity and literary excellence.

The journey of Sonam’s Surprise is a testament to the power of personal connections, crosscultural collaboration, and the enduring spirit of storytelling. The novel serves as a bridge between cultures, inviting readers on a journey through the heart of Nepal. As readers traverse the pages, they are not just following the adventures of Sonam; they are embarking on a cultural odyssey that fosters a profound appreciation for the people, traditions, and the enchanting landscapes of Nepal.

Nichols, the author, provides readers with a glimpse into her background, revealing a passion for travel, cultural experiences, adventure, photography, singing, rowing crew, and volunteering. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area and spending most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, Nichols brings a diverse set of experiences and perspectives to her debut novel.

Niroj Bade, the illustrator, adds another layer to the collaborative effort. Hailing from the historical community of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, Nepal, Bade’s artistic journey includes completing his MFA at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. His fascination with traditional cultures, festivals, dances, architecture, and nature shines through in his artwork. While Bade usually works with oil and acrylic paints, the illustrations for Sonam’s Surprise were created using pen and ink, showcasing his versatility as an artist.

In a delightful note about the illustrator, Niroj mentions his identification with Sonam as a young boy who loved to draw everywhere. This personal connection adds an extra layer of authenticity to the illustrations, as Niroj infuses the character of Sonam with a genuine understanding of the joys of childhood creativity.

Sonam’s Surprise is not just a book; it’s a cultural immersion, an ode to the human spirit, and a celebration of the enduring bonds between people. Nikki Nichols’ debut novel, with the artistic accompaniment of Niroj Bade, invites readers to venture beyond the pages and explore the landscapes, traditions, and surprises that Nepal has to offer. As you turn the pages of this enchanting novel, be prepared to embark on a journey that transcends borders, cultures, and expectations.

Review by Chapters

Sonam’s Surprise is an engaging and well-crafted narrative that introduces readers to the world of Sonam Sherpa, a curious and imaginative young shepherd in Nepal. The story is rich with vivid descriptions of the landscape, wildlife, and the daily life of Sonam and his family. The author skillfully weaves elements of adventure and mystery, leaving readers intrigued by the unexpected turn of events.

The opening scene, with the geese flying overhead and the mysterious sounds, sets the tone for a day filled with anticipation and potential surprises. Sonam’s desire for knowledge and exploration is palpable, providing depth to his character and making him relatable to readers.

The narrative effectively portrays Sonam’s dreams and aspirations, highlighting his yearning for education and a life beyond shepherding. The challenges he faces, such as the financial constraints preventing him from attending a better school, add a layer of realism to the story. Sonam’s determination to find a way to overcome these obstacles showcases his resilience and resourcefulness.

The introduction of Uncle Mingma and the messenger, Hajur Phura Tharkey, adds an intriguing twist to the plot. The mysterious summons from the king creates suspense and leaves readers eager to uncover the purpose behind it. The inclusion of cultural elements, such as the traditional greetings and the depiction of the king’s interest in diverse cultures, adds authenticity to the narrative.

The flashback about Sonam and his friend Apa’s attempt to thwart the construction of a hotel near their village adds depth to Sonam’s character and foreshadows potential challenges ahead. The encounter with the wolf provides an exciting and suspenseful moment, showcasing Sonam’s bravery and quick thinking.

The story successfully captures the essence of a young boy’s dreams and the unexpected opportunities that may arise. The writing style is accessible and engaging, making it suitable for a wide range of readers. Overall, Sonam’s Surprise is a promising start to what appears to be a captivating and adventurous tale, leaving readers eagerly anticipating the next chapters to unravel the mysteries and challenges that lie ahead for Sonam.

Sonam’s Surprise delves deeper into the family dynamics and introduces us to more characters while Sonam grapples with the unexpected summons from the king. The chapter paints a vivid picture of life in the rural village of Khumjung, nestled amidst the rugged beauty of Nepal’s mountains.

Sonam’s interactions with his family members, including his siblings, showcase the warmth and closeness within the household. From Pasang’s inventive use of yak poop to fuel the fire to Lhakpa’s respectful demeanor towards Phura Tharkey, each character adds depth to the narrative and highlights the cultural nuances of the Sherpa community.

The chapter also sheds light on Sonam’s past experiences and his adventurous spirit. His reminiscence about exploring caves and playing games with his friend Apa not only illustrates his curiosity but also his resilience in the face of challenges, such as the encounter with a wolf while protecting his sheep.

Phura Tharkey’s presence serves as a catalyst for introspection as Sonam contemplates the implications of the king’s summons. The uncertainty surrounding the king’s request and Sonam’s willingness to embark on this journey despite his doubts add suspense to the storyline and hint at the underlying themes of courage and duty.

Moreover, the chapter beautifully captures the natural beauty of the Himalayan landscape and the symbiotic relationship between the villagers and their surroundings. Sonam’s descriptions of the flora and fauna, coupled with his keen observations of daily life, evoke a sense of nostalgia and reverence for the environment.

Overall, Sonam’s Surprise is a compelling continuation of the narrative, blending elements of adventure, familial bonds, and cultural heritage. As Sonam prepares to embark on a journey that promises to be both daunting and transformative, readers are left eagerly anticipating the unfolding of events and the realization of his destiny.

The helicopter circled above, then descended, kicking up snow and dust. We shielded our eyes from the flying debris and watched as it landed near the village. The wind from the rotors caused our clothes to flap wildly, and the noise was so loud that we covered our ears.

Out of the helicopter stepped a tall man in a dark blue jacket, wearing a hat and sunglasses. He looked important, and everyone in the village gathered around to see what was happening. I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness as I stood there, waiting to find out who this person was and why he had come.

Phura Tharkey approached the man and greeted him respectfully. They exchanged words that I couldn’t hear over the helicopter’s noise. The man gestured towards the village, and Phura Tharkey nodded. They started walking towards us, and as they got closer, I noticed the man’s piercing blue eyes behind his sunglasses.

Phura Tharkey introduced him, “This is Captain Singh, a pilot from the Nepalese Army. He’s here to take Sonam to Kathmandu as per the king’s summons.”

Captain Singh removed his sunglasses, revealing a stern but friendly expression. He extended his hand towards me and said, “Hello, Sonam. I’ve heard a lot about you. Ready for a helicopter ride to the palace?”

I shook his hand, still feeling a bit overwhelmed. The idea of a helicopter ride excited me, but going to the palace was both thrilling and intimidating. I looked around at my family, and Mother had tears in her eyes. She hugged me tightly and whispered, “Be safe, my son. We’ll be waiting for you.”

Phura Tharkey, Captain Singh, and I climbed into the helicopter. The noise was deafening inside, and Captain Singh handed me a set of ear protectors. As we took off, I looked down at my village, the familiar landscape now shrinking beneath us. The snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas surrounded us, and I marveled at the breathtaking view.

During the flight, Captain Singh pointed out various landmarks and shared stories about the mountains. Despite the noise, he spoke with enthusiasm, making sure I could hear him through the headset. Phura Tharkey, seated beside me, reassured me about the journey.

As we approached Kathmandu, the landscape changed from the rugged mountain terrain to a sprawling city nestled in the Kathmandu Valley. The helicopter descended, and soon we were landing at the royal palace. My heart raced with a mix of excitement and apprehension.

We were greeted by palace guards, and Captain Singh escorted me to a waiting area. Phura Tharkey assured me everything would be fine and promised to wait for my return. I took a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves.

A palace official approached and guided me through the grand halls, adorned with intricate artwork and tapestries. We finally entered a room where an elderly man sat on a majestic throne, wearing a crown and adorned in royal attire. It was the king.

He looked at me with a warm smile and said, “Welcome, Sonam. I’ve been expecting you. I have a matter of great importance that I hope you can assist me with.”

I bowed respectfully, my heart pounding, ready to learn about the task the king had for me. The adventure in Kathmandu had just begun, and I couldn’t anticipate the challenges and discoveries that awaited me in the heart of the kingdom.

The villagers gathered in the courtyard of the school, buzzing with excitement and curiosity about the unexpected turn of events. I stood at the center, feeling a mix of pride and nervousness, as the king’s messenger, Phura Tharkey, addressed the crowd.

Phura Tharkey spoke with a commanding yet gentle tone, “People of Khumjung, I bring you greetings from King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev. His Majesty has summoned Sonam Sherpa to the palace in Kathmandu to help him solve a problem. It is a significant honor for Sonam, his family, and your entire community.”

The crowd erupted in a mixture of disbelief and astonishment. I could hear whispers and comments expressing skepticism about an eleven-year-old peasant boy being summoned by the king.

Phura Tharkey continued, “The king has deep respect and admiration for the people of Khumjung. He appreciates the hard work and sacrifices you make in this challenging terrain. The summons for Sonam is a recognition of his intelligence, talents, and the potential he holds.”

As the villagers absorbed this information, their expressions changed from skepticism to pride. Phura Tharkey emphasized the king’s dedication to the well-being of the people and his efforts to provide essential services despite the geographical challenges of the region.

“The king is aware of the difficulties you face, and he is committed to improving the lives of the citizens. Sonam’s journey to Kathmandu is not just for his benefit but for the betterment of all of you,” Phura Tharkey declared.

The crowd, now captivated by Phura Tharkey’s words, listened intently. He spoke of the king’s love for art and culture, highlighting how King Birendra would have appreciated the art show at the school. The people nodded in agreement, acknowledging the king’s connection to the local community.

“I understand there may be doubts and questions about how an eleven-year-old can assist the king. Even I do not know the specifics of the problem. However, we must trust in the wisdom of our king. This is an opportunity for Sonam to contribute to something greater than himself,” Phura Tharkey explained.

The villagers, with a sense of pride and gratitude, began to accept the reality of the situation. Phura Tharkey concluded his speech with a quote from King Birendra, reinforcing the importance of remaining active and vigilant for the sake of the country.

The atmosphere shifted from skepticism to celebration. Rhythmic songs and spontaneous dancing erupted, marking the beginning of an impromptu festival. I found myself lifted into the air, passed from one person to another, as the villagers celebrated the honor bestowed upon Khumjung.

As the festivities wound down, the mayor of the village approached with scarves, or khatas, to offer blessings. The lama, my father’s climbing partner, and our kind neighbors shared words of wisdom and encouragement. Despite the joyous occasion, a hint of worry lingered in my mother’s eyes.

“We must depart early in the morning to fulfill the king’s wishes,” Phura Tharkey announced, and the reality of the impending journey settled in. The villagers, still buzzing with excitement, offered their final blessings and good wishes.

As the night approached, my family gathered to discuss the journey and my departure. Concerns and emotions ran high, but the underlying sense of pride and support prevailed. The adventure awaited, and the unknown challenges loomed on the horizon.

“Sonam’s Odyssey” takes readers on a captivating journey filled with suspense, warmth, and cultural richness. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas, the narrative unfolds as Sonam, a young and curious boy, prepares for an unexpected and mysterious mission to meet the king.

The author skillfully weaves a tapestry of emotions, from the excitement of preparation to the uncertainty that looms over Sonam’s quest. The vivid descriptions of the Nepalese village, the aromatic kitchen, and the breathtaking mountains immerse readers in the cultural nuances of Sonam’s world.

The character development is notable, especially in Sonam’s interactions with his family, friends, and the enigmatic man he encounters at the market. The dynamics among the siblings reflect the natural blend of jealousy, concern, and familial love. Sonam’s internal struggle, filled with questions about his worthiness and the king’s interest in him, adds depth to the storyline.

The narrative seamlessly incorporates elements of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, providing a cultural richness that enhances the reader’s understanding of the characters and their beliefs. The mention of festivals, rituals, and the interconnectedness of religion and daily life adds authenticity to the setting.

As the plot thickens with the introduction of Amrita and the mysterious man, a sense of foreboding builds. The suspense is expertly crafted, creating a page-turning experience that keeps readers engaged. The unexpected turn of events, especially during the encounter with the mysterious man, leaves readers on the edge of their seats.

The author’s attention to detail shines through, whether describing the scenic landscapes, the hustle and bustle of the market, or the intricate process of making sel roti. The inclusion of Sonam’s artistic endeavors and his appreciation for cave paintings adds a creative layer to the narrative.

The story leaves readers eager to unravel the mysteries surrounding Sonam’s mission, the intentions of the mysterious man, and the fate of Amrita. “Sonam’s Odyssey” is a beautifully crafted tale that skillfully balances cultural exploration, familial bonds, and a suspenseful journey into the unknown.

The chilly air bit at my skin as panic surged through me. We had ventured too far, and my mind raced with thoughts of Uncle’s worry and the consequences that awaited. The mysterious man, insistent on reaching the cave paintings, propelled us forward, the urgency in his voice matching the pounding in my chest.

“I have to go back! I must go back now!” I pleaded, but the man was unyielding, emphasizing the need to hasten our pace, all while Amrita’s pain-filled moans echoed in the desolate landscape.

Dread intensified as I scanned our surroundings for an escape route, but the barren hills offered no refuge. Fear took hold when the man’s grip on my wrist tightened, urging me to lead the way. Every twist and turn to break free proved futile.

At last, we reached the cave, its darkness concealing any trace of the promised paintings. My desperation grew as I realized the trap we had walked into. I attempted to resist, kicking and squirming, but his hold on me was unrelenting.

Amrita’s cries of pain heightened my anxiety, and the man’s attempts to subdue her were met with fierce resistance. In a moment of clarity, I recalled the rocks in my pocket, the remnants of a past encounter with a wolf. However, with the man’s foot on my chest, reaching for them seemed impossible.

Summoning courage, I used the only weapon available—an edged rock. Scraping it down the man’s leg, blood spurted, and he recoiled in agony. Seizing the opportunity, I sprinted towards the cave’s entrance, Amrita following despite her injured leg.

As we neared freedom, the man, fueled by desperation and anger, revealed a hidden silver object— a knife. Terrified, I readied the second rock, contemplating a desperate defense. But in the nick of time, the rhythmic clicks of approaching footsteps echoed through the cave.

Two formidable women emerged, armed with ropes. With swift precision, they subdued the man, disarming him and securing his limbs. They urged us to assist, holding him down until the police could arrive. The relief was palpable as we waited, trapped in the cave, hoping for our saviors in uniform.

When the police arrived, gratitude emanated from them. We shared our harrowing experience, learning that the man had preyed on other children before us. The women, who turned out to be our unseen guardian angels from the market, received well-deserved praise for their bravery.

Finally free from the cave’s oppressive grip, we returned to the fruit vendor’s place, where Uncle and Phura Tharkey anxiously awaited our return. Uncle’s relief was tempered by stern admonitions for breaking my promise and venturing with a stranger. The shame weighed heavy, but I recounted the tale of our narrow escape.

The women, now identified as specially trained to aid children in distress, offered to help Amrita with her injured leg. Grateful for their intervention, we bid farewell to Amrita as she embarked on a new chapter with these newfound protectors. Uncle, Phura Tharkey, and I left Namche Bazaar, armed with saffron incense to ward off evil spirits, a stark reminder of the dangers that lurked beyond the mountainside town.

Leaving Namche Bazaar behind, our journey took an unexpected turn as nature unleashed its fury. What began as playful splashes in puddles soon transformed into a deluge, turning the path into a treacherous slide of mud. Uncle’s cautionary advice came too late, and both of us found ourselves tumbling down the slippery slope, battered and bruised.

Mud-covered and disgruntled, I bemoaned the failed protection of Ganesh’s incense, earning a laugh from Uncle. Phura Tharkey, ever pragmatic, suggested that Ganesh might have indeed safeguarded us from a more perilous fate.

Squelching along, mud seeping into our shoes, we pressed on, the relentless rain and squishy mud slowing our progress. A brief respite under a rock’s overhang allowed us to catch our breath, and I seized the opportunity to sketch a Himalayan Ghoral Tahr, a majestic sight crossing our path.

As we continued, encountering the toil of porters laden with heavy baskets, we were informed of a nearby village where we could rest. The landscape shifted dramatically below Namche Bazaar—lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls, and vibrant flowers replaced the rocky terrain.

Eager to capture the beauty on paper, I requested a short stop for sketching. Uncle, however, voiced impatience, emphasizing the urgency of reaching Kathmandu. Despite my reluctance, I packed up my art supplies, resigned to the fact that our journey demanded more haste.

Hours of ascending and descending led us to a valley with towering peaks and a powerful Dudh Kosi River. Phura Tharkey shared insights into the river’s aquamarine and white hues, a result of glacial rock particles and foamy cascades.

We descended toward Lukla, our day’s destination, only to be met with an unexpected seismic event. Panic set in as the earth shook, and we scrambled for cover under a rocky overhang. A landslide ensued, rocks and debris hurtling past us. The trail vanished before our eyes, and the once-sturdy ground beneath us seemed perilous.

Surviving the quake and landslide, we reconvened to assess the aftermath. Phura Tharkey emerged with a limp and facial scratches, a consequence of the chaos. Shocked and disoriented, I recounted the day’s calamities, questioning the wisdom of our journey.

Expressing my frustration, I confronted Phura Tharkey, casting doubt on the king’s existence and the legitimacy of my mission. He reassured me, emphasizing the consequences of ignoring the king’s summons, and the gravity of the responsibility I bore.

Resolute, we pushed forward, encountering more challenges, including the destruction of a vital bridge. The storm and earthquake had left its remnants scattered, hindering our progress to Kathmandu. The reality of our situation struck, leaving us pondering the uncertain path ahead.

The group stood on the edge of the Lukla airfield, nerves on edge as the plane approached. The fear of flying, compounded by the treacherous reputation of the airfield, gripped Sonam and Uncle Mingma. As they anxiously awaited their flight to Kathmandu, a crashed plane on the edge of the airfield heightened their fears.

Phura Tharkey tried to reassure them, pointing out the successful flights that had taken off from Lukla in the past. However, the sight of the crashed plane added a layer of anxiety. Uncle Mingma, in particular, was reluctant to board, knowing that their journey to meet the king depended on this flight.

As the plane taxied towards them, Sonam decided to distract himself by drawing a picture of the airfield. He hoped to capture the scene to share with his mother and the people of Khumjung. The act of drawing provided a momentary escape from the fear, allowing Sonam to focus on creating something tangible.

Despite the lingering apprehension, the time had come to board the plane. Uncle Mingma, still fearful, hesitated. Phura Tharkey urged him, emphasizing the importance of reaching Kathmandu to meet the king. The inner conflict between fear and determination played out on Uncle Mingma’s face.

Finally, with a deep breath, Uncle Mingma mustered the courage to step onto the plane. Sonam, gripping his drawing, followed suit. The anticipation and fear reached a crescendo as they settled into their seats, ready for a flight that would take them from the remote landscapes of Khumbu to the bustling city of Kathmandu.

As the plane roared to life, ascending into the sky, Sonam couldn’t shake the mixture of fear and excitement. The world below transformed into a patchwork of mountains and valleys, a perspective he had never imagined. The Bar-headed geese and Rosy Minivets soared alongside, and the onceunthinkable experience of flying became a reality.

The journey to Kathmandu unfolded in the air, carrying them closer to the mysterious purpose for which Sonam had been summoned by the king. The anticipation of meeting King Birendra added a layer of curiosity to the swirling emotions, making the flight both a physical and metaphorical passage to an unknown destiny.

Sonam’s journey recounts a captivating experience from his mountainous home to the bustling city of Kathmandu. The vivid narrative takes readers through the trials of air travel, providing a front-row seat to the excitement and trepidation of Sonam and his uncle.

The depiction of the airfield’s choreographed chaos sets the stage for a nerve-wracking plane ride. The suspenseful moment when the Twin Otter plane struggles before finally ascending is a testament to the author’s ability to build tension. Readers are taken on a visual journey through Nepal’s picturesque landscapes, experiencing the thrill of flight alongside the characters.

Upon arrival in Kathmandu, the stark contrast between Sonam’s rural upbringing and the city’s vibrant chaos unfolds. The introduction to the king’s chauffeured car becomes a moment of awe for Sonam, highlighting the disparity between his simple life and the luxury of urban living. The cultural exploration continues as they traverse Kathmandu’s streets, encountering intricate sculptures, temples, and a glimpse into the life of the living goddess Kumari.

The unexpected twist in their plans, with the postponement of the meeting with the king, adds a layer of realism to the narrative. Sonam’s disappointment and uncertainty about his purpose in the city evoke empathy from readers. However, the resilience of the characters shines through as they decide to explore the wonders of Kathmandu while awaiting the king’s availability.

The chapter provides a rich tapestry of cultural insights, from the peculiar architecture of pagodas to the sacred rituals surrounding the Kumari. The lively description of Durbar Square and its vibrant festivities immerses readers in the cultural vibrancy of Nepal.

Sonam’s encounter with the mischievous monkey at the Swayambhunath stupa adds a touch of humor and adventure. The ensuing monkey escapade, though momentarily frustrating, reinforces the authenticity of Sonam’s experiences in an unfamiliar urban environment.

Overall, Sonam’s Surprise masterfully weaves together elements of adventure, culture, and personal growth. The author’s ability to transport readers into Sonam’s world, coupled with the vivid descriptions of Kathmandu’s landmarks, makes this chapter an engaging and memorable segment of Sonam’s remarkable journey.

Sonam’s journey unfolds as a surprising odyssey of art, honor, and unexpected opportunities. The chapter commences with the aftermath of the monkey incident at Swayambhunath, escalating into a tense situation involving a missing copper lid from a sacred box. The intricate plan devised by Uncle Mingma, Sonam, and Phura Tharkey to retrieve the lid adds an element of suspense, humor, and resourcefulness to the narrative.

The story takes an unexpected turn when the royal summons to meet King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev materializes. The intricate details of their preparation, the anticipation, and the surreal surroundings of the Narayanhiti Palace elevate the chapter to a crescendo of excitement. Readers are treated to vivid descriptions of the palace, its grounds, and the regal atmosphere that envelops the characters.

The revelation that the king has seen and admired Sonam’s drawings, initially given to an Austrian climber, introduces a delightful twist. The authenticity of Sonam’s shock and disbelief at the king’s acknowledgment of his talent resonates with readers. The subsequent request from King Birendra for Sonam to embark on a special project—traveling across the kingdom, drawing portraits of people, villages, and landscapes—adds a layer of responsibility and adventure to the narrative. As Sonam grapples with the enormity of the task ahead, the unexpected acknowledgment of his artistic prowess becomes a doorway to a life-altering opportunity. The chapter seamlessly weaves in elements of cultural richness, as the king shares insights into his coronation, the palace, and even the purpose behind displaying Sonam’s drawings.

The climax, revealing the king’s plan to arrange a scholarship for Sonam at Budhanilkantha School, resonates as a poignant moment of triumph over adversity. The blend of Sonam’s humility, the king’s generosity, and the overarching theme of education as a transformative force creates a resonant narrative arc.

Sonam’s Surprise serves as a pivotal moment in Sonam’s journey, propelling him from the rustic charm of Khumjung to the corridors of power in Kathmandu. The Sonam’s Surprise masterfully combines elements of surprise, cultural immersion, and the transformative power of education, leaving readers eager to accompany Sonam on the next leg of his remarkable odyssey.