The Age of Shiva

By MANIL SURI

Perhaps one day I will tell you about the yearning from which you were born. You will deliver me, will you not, from this life I find myself in? This is the question Meera poses to her infant son, Ashvin, the only male who promises redemption from the choices she’s made. As in his debut, The Death of Vishnu, Manil Suri’s second novel places Hindu mythology, familial strife, and contemporary political and religious conflicts in deft and revealing juxtapositions. Meera’s urgent soliloquy — which begins from her misguided desire to marry Dev, a singer she believed would transform her ordinary existence into a Bollywood romance — is a lyrically sensual reflection, peppered with pragmatic justifications, agonized what-ifs, and haunting regret. As her son grows to manhood, Meera retreats further into the corridors of her mind to soothe the rebellious fury caused by her manipulative father and restore the energy sapped by her needy, alcoholic husband and his lecherous brother. Like Meera, readers must navigate the complexity of this family’s emotional terrain, often as unsettled as that of the newly independent India. But Suri’s pitch-perfect language drives a narrative that ultimately reveals while a mother’s motives might not be entirely pure, they are utterly human — a fact that is at once exhilarating and all too humbling. -