Michigan-based writer Oindrila Mukherjee's debut novel, "The Dream Builders," creates a kaleidoscopic portrait of a group of acquaintances, friends and lovers vying for happiness, success, connection and respect in the fictional, upstart city of Hrishipur near New Delhi in northern India. Mukherjee chronicles an eventful summer in Hrishipur through the experiences of 10 characters whose lives intersect. She grounds the novel in the perspective of Maneka, a professor of literature at a Midwestern university who comes home to India to visit her father.

Maneka grew up in the city then known as Calcutta, on the southern coast. Her parents moved to Hrishipur so her mother could work as a French teacher. They sold their flat and began making payments on a condo in a planned complex, but the building was never constructed and they lost most of their savings, a common problem in Hrishipur. Maneka never managed to visit them in the new city before her mother died, and so when she arrives to see her widowed father, she is disoriented. She is meant to be working on a collection of essays about contemporary India, but as she marvels at the dynamic city, her topic keeps evolving.

Maneka receives an invitation to a party from a school classmate, the posh, beautiful Ramona, now married to a wealthy businessman. "Maneka was surprised Ramona even remembered her name," Mukherjee writes, "but Facebook did that to people these days. It forced them to recollect obscure acquaintances from their past no matter how little they might have known of each other."

Ramona, whose impeccable beauty suggests a perfect life, turns out to be desperately lonely, and Maneka begins to spend time with her and other people she meets at the party, who each take a turn as the focus.

While the novel begins with the stories of wealthy people, it soon moves to characters who struggle for economic survival as spa workers, housekeepers and handymen. They form the underground root system that sustains the city's surface where Ramona and her friends' lives unfold, but they are people whom the upper class ignores at their peril.

Mukherjee weaves in up-to-the-minute details, including an increasingly petulant Hindu nationalist government, a blazing, globally warmed summer, and an under-construction Trump-branded condominium complex, the fixed point around which the narrative swirls. Refreshingly, none of the characters but Maneka have much concern for America's politics; they see the Trump building as a lavish curiosity being built first because its developers paid the most bribes, "a marvelous property that would transform Hrishipur into the most happening city in the continent."

Characters whose behavior seems off-putting reveal sympathetic motivations when Mukherjee passes them the mic, and the book unfolds like a demonstration of empathy for people of all kinds. The novel is full of frothy revelations of affairs, blackmail, corruption, subterfuge and bribery that keep the pages turning, but it's all grounded in the authentic substance of these characters' lives, which Mukherjee conveys with sensitivity, beauty and depth. "The Dream Builders" is a winning tale of contemporary capitalism and its discontents, that derives its heat and heart from its characters' humanity.

Jenny Shank's story collection, "Mixed Company," won the Colorado Book Award and the George Garrett Fiction Prize and her novel, "The Ringer," won the High Plains Book Award.

The Dream Builders

By: Oindrila Mukherjee.

Publisher: Tin House, 384 pages, $17.95.