As It Was Written

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Overview

The epic journey of an Indian-American family which unfolds when men and women, Hindus and Catholics, histories and curses, collide

In McLean, Virginia, Dr. Raman Nair lives a life of abounding satisfaction with his tiny wife, Jaya, and his harem of enormous and beautiful daughters. He has been away from his native Kerala, India for so long that he has happily forgotten the ancient Brahmin curse that follows his family like a black cloud, killing one girl for love in every ...

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Overview

The epic journey of an Indian-American family which unfolds when men and women, Hindus and Catholics, histories and curses, collide

In McLean, Virginia, Dr. Raman Nair lives a life of abounding satisfaction with his tiny wife, Jaya, and his harem of enormous and beautiful daughters. He has been away from his native Kerala, India for so long that he has happily forgotten the ancient Brahmin curse that follows his family like a black cloud, killing one girl for love in every generation. But his wife hasn’t forgotten, nor has his baby sister, Gita. Suddenly his daughters are up to no good and Dr. Raman Nair doesn’t know which way to turn.

As It Was Written marks the arrival of a wonderful new voice in fiction, and a storyteller of the highest order.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From Booklist:

Hampton’s debut follows the fortunes of an Indian family living in Virginia. Gita Nair, a troubled young professor, is practically shrinking away to nothing as she pines for Chris Jones, a handsome married man she met and fell in love with in an airport when she was only 18. Their affair spans many years, as Chris’ wife Jeri tries to get over the stillborn birth of the child she hoped would save their marriage. Gita is hard at work on a recounting of the tragic, cursed life of her great-great-great grandmother, and fears that the family curse might be visited on one of her five voluptuous, beautiful nieces. Her fears seem on the brink of being realized when two of the girls fall into love affairs, one joyous, the other unhappy: Veena experiences love at first sight with a young doctor, while Dhanya is seduced by a rakish college professor. This rich, lush family drama is bound to appeal to readers who like their fiction imaginative and whimsical. — Kristine Huntley

 
"A thoroughly wonderful, absolutely engaging debut novel.  From the first page to the last, I was captivated by the beautifully drawn characters, intricate plotting, and compelling storyline.  Quite simply, once you enter the crazy, heartfelt, loving, magical world of Dr. Raman Nair and his five daughters, you will never want to leave."
--Kristin Hannah,
New York Times bestselling author of FIREFLY LANE

"Lyrical, erotic and quite funny, As It Was Written isn't about a clash of cultures: it's about the meeting of powerful mythologies, which regard one another with wonder and suspicion and then, inevitably, begin to swirl together."
—Jincy Willett
, author of THE WRITING CLASS

"A beautifully written novel, in turns comic and poignant, from a bold new writer with a distinctive voice and a joyously vast imagination."
-Roopa Farooki, author of BITTER SWEETS

“The type of epic, heart - tugging book about family that you want to jump into so you can be a part of the story, too.  Sujatha Hampton writes with elegance and honesty.”
Cathy Lamb, author of  HENRY'S SISTERS
 

"As It Was Written beautifully depicts a family of women who are weighted down by the past yet yearn for a more liberated future. With both sumptuous prose and a keen eye, Sujatha Hampton has created a highly impressive debut.”
-- Alyson Richman author of THE LAST VAN GOGH, SWEDISH TANGO & THE MASKCARVER'S SON 

Publishers Weekly
Hampton's debut novel is a spectacular, colorful, and way too busy mess. There is the gigantic Mr. Nair and his five daughters (only two of whom figure prominently), plus their tiny allergy-plagued mother who hasn't opened a window for 20 years. There is Mr. Nair's sister, Gita, her married lover and his ex-wife, two medical students—one being a love interest for one of the daughters—a lecherous professor, a single mother landlord and her two children, an adorable trio of bakers, assorted in-laws and relatives and the town crazy who swoops in at the end to provide a totally unsatisfactory conclusion. There's also a book within a book. The narrative is lovely, vibrant, expansive, and well-paced, and the characters are complex, but there are simply too many of them and too much going on with no anchor to keep things from running amok—and run amok they do. Hampton has a lot of promise and a great handle on most of the author's toolbox; hopefully, next time out, there'll be a sturdier hand in reigning it in. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312584122
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Pages: 370
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sujatha Hampton

SUJATHA HAMPTON left her fifteen year career as an educator to write As It Was Written, which is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

THE CURSED LIFE

OF

SREEMATHI OMANAKUMARI

Kerala, India

1849 –1865

By

Gita Nair

Around each of her toes, Omanakumari weaved circlets of slim leaves and she danced them and secretly admired her feet. Nice, but they would be much improved with anklets that jingle-jangled. It was not quite light; the blue was cast with black and wet with all the dew that had not yet settled. She sat quietly in the corner of the veranda, and watched her morning toes, still clean and so dazzling in circlets of leaves. Her mouth poked out with the effort of not smiling out loud. If anyone was looking they would see a pretty, pretty girl with her mouth poked out, smiling with her chin and her cheeks and with her eyebrows. And on her eyebrows, any onlooker’s gaze would linger, for they were long and sleek and visible even in the shadowed corner of the veranda.

Omanakumari lifted her eyes from her toes and looked out over the trees at the color of the day. Such promise in the dark blue sky, the first whiff of fire, the first tittery remark of a bird and then another’s prompt retort. The receding of the night sounds into the day sounds; such promise there, every morning. Strand by strand she unwove her toes. She stood and cast her greens over the veranda and something flew out from somewhere and rustled the treetops. She inhaled the sour smell of the first things cooking on damp wood far enough away to smell only of smoke and not of food. She heard the woman Anjukutty shout angrily and with malice at a dog that had claimed her space. Water was thrown, it splashed and she heard this too.

Inside her house it was dark and she delighted in the quiet and the solitude of being awake. Karthika was sweeping bent low to the ground. She didn’t look up, the misery of her life being equal whether she was alone or watched. Omanakumari entered the cooking space and poured water to her mouth and her mother came in. She was wiping her hands against her hips, drying them. Her hair was not yet tied up, but secured with a strand of itself, behind her neck and loose down her back. She had been milking and she was happy. Milking made Narayanikutty happy. She had a talent for this task and the cows gave and gave to her as they did for no one else. The cows made her special in that taravad as none were as gifted at cows as she.

"Did you take bath?" she asked, walking close and holding her daughter’s face between her hands.

Omanakumari smiled with her eyebrows and her nostrils. "I am going now."

"What were you doing so far?"

"I was thinking."

"What were you thinking? About how little you do to be of help?"

"Yes, I was thinking just that."

"Mmmm, you are not even clean to be impudent."

"Better to be dirty when being impudent." Omanakumari’s mouth trembled in its poked-out position, her eyes twinkled.

"Mmmm, like Anjukutty you will grow, screaming at dogs. That is what happens to impudent girls." Her mother’s eyes sparkled too, but she smiled a full open smile that released her daughter’s laughter to spill out onto the kitchen floor. It rolled about like marbles that got lost in crevices, never to be seen again.

Omanakumari lifted her mother’s hands to her face and rubbed her nose against the skin that was moist and smelled of outside. She inhaled deeply, her morning kiss given with this most loving gesture. I breathe you, Mother, bless my day. Narayanikutty bent her face to her daughter’s hair and did the same: I breathe you, child. Go forth with my blessings.

The alarm on Gita’s watch sounded with a pulsing insistence and reluctantly she lifted her head from her pages. It was time to go. A page slipped from under her fingers and slid to the floor underneath her desk. She bent to retrieve it and felt her blouse fluffing and puffing out from her pants, and as she stood up she felt the void around her middle. She was afraid there would be no hiding that, and how to wear a poncho when the weather was so warm? Then suddenly a thought! She brightened: I will wear a sari, I will wear a puffy, cotton sari! And with this, Gita gathered her things and hurried to her place to change. Her brother was coming home from Kerala today, and she would put on a puffy sari that would hide the points of her hips, and the bones of her shoulders, and the slightly bluish tint of her arms, and she would arrive to greet him thus camouflaged. And in a puffy cotton sari, hidden behind her five darling and very fat nieces, perhaps she could deflect all scrutiny for one more evening. From her dwindling size. From the secrets of her new book. From the misery of her long, long, never-ending life.

The Journey

Dr. Raman Nair collapsed in his seat, exhausted. His gargantuan carry-on, stuffed with what might be elbows or periscopes or some other pointy and protrusive objects, splayed across the aisle. The thought of cramming this monstrosity under the seat filled him with . . . yes, it was true . . . it filled him with despair. But there would be no point in delaying. One way or another, he would have to manage to get through the twenty-two-hour plane ride home from India. Standing again, he took a deep breath, braced his back and lifted the clanking bag forward. With a heaving push and the full force of his nearly 250-pound body, he squeezed it under the seat. Panting and dabbing the perspiration from his brow, he again fell into his seat. It was a monumental ordeal.

His neighbor chuckled. "My dear sir, what a project your bag, eh?" He reached out a friendly hand and patted Dr. Raman Nair on the shoulder.

Dr. Raman Nair shook his head resignedly and sighed again. In a low and sonorous voice he lamented, "O . . . ooo . . . this bag, I have been carrying it for one thousand miles. It might as well have been on my back. And I might as well have been on foot!"

"Is it heavy?"

"Heavy!! Oh goodness gracious! It weighs like the Himalayas, but has none of their charm or beauty! A bulky madness, a prodigious weight, without even the grace to be pleasing to the eye, or even surely beneficial to the recipient!"

"What is it?"

Dr. Raman Nair sighed a prolonged breath. "Brahmi oil."

"That whole bag has Brahmi oil?"

"And only Brahmi oil."

"What on earth for? That is a lot of Brahmi oil."

"Sixty-eight bottles."

"Sixty-eight bottles of Brahmi oil? What on earth for?!"

"An intractable affliction."

"Yours?"

"My nephew’s."

"Why didn’t you ship it . . . or check it in?" There was a clinking as the person in front settled into his seat. His neighbor reached down and shook the bag a bit, perhaps to ascertain that indeed there were bottles within.

Dr. Raman Nair paused and measured his words. He dropped his chin to his chest in defeat. "My sister would not allow it." Without letting his neighbor respond, he continued, "Chechi’s son, he is very good. He is a very good boy, my nephew, he is a medical resident, Johns Hopkins University, but with a chronic affliction for which he can find no relief. It worsens in the winter." Here he paused again. "Winter will be fast approaching."

Before the plane had even taken off, a small seep sprang in the bottom of this bag. By the time they landed to change planes in London, Dr. Raman Nair and his sympathetic neighbor both felt that simply by having inhaled this ayurvedic remedy for fourteen hours, neither could ever be afflicted by what ever curse plagued Chechi’s son so chronically, and even worse in the winter.

As Dr. Raman Nair was crossing the Atlantic on his way home, his illustrious nephew, Manoj, with the chronic problem that worsened in winter, was faced with a dilemma. George needed him to cover call. Squinting in the bed, bleary-headed with fatigue, what was he to do? Say no? Dive back under the covers and sleep off what had been his own exhausting call night? How could he do that when his friend, his colleague, his countryman even, the good George Thomas, had had his car burgled again in the middle of the night? Again?

"I have no shoes." George sighed.

"No shoes?"

"They were in the car."

"What were you wearing on your feet?"

"It’s four a.m. I was barefoot."

Hmm . . . there was no point in pursuing it. Manoj sighed and carefully rubbed his head. "I have to pick my ammavan up at Dulles tomorrow. He’ll be . . . really, really mad if I am late."

"I’ll get there. I just need to call the insurance company. And . . . I need to get some shoes. And then I’ll catch the bus in. But I just got paged. I can’t . . . you know . . . I don’t have any shoes."

He could hear George’s deep exhale. It’s true. You can’t go to work with no shoes. Manoj rubbed his hand down his face. "You know what, George?"

"What?"

"You really need to move."

George sighed again. This was most definitely true.

Excerpted from As It Was Written by Sujatha Hampton.
Copyright © 2010 by Sujatha Hampton.
Published in February 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2010

    A Refreshing Return to the Well Written Novel.

    In a time when most novels are watered down and simplistic to appeal to the dulled masses, AS IT WAS WRITTEN is a refreshing return to the well written novel. This novel has it all, a lush story, a family curse, characters you love and those you love to hate. Beautifully written, we become engrossed in the lives of the Nairs and the people in their lives. This family drama is bound to appeal to readers who want a rich literary fiction. A must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Addicting!

    I could not put this book down! Love when that happens, but it brings my life to a stand still because I can't get anything done since all I want to do is read, this book in particular! I highly recommend As It Was Written!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2010

    beautifully eloquent

    I found myself stunned by the Publisher's Weekly review of this wonderful new book. Though much happens in "As it Was Written," by Sujatha Hampton, this novel is anything but busy. I certainly did not leave feeling I wished she had "reined it in." In fact, I was glad that she allowed us to get to know this family in the way that we did. We are introduced to many characters in the book (and I mean CHARACTERS!), and their stories are not only utterly believable, but they are compelling and full of rich detail. As I read the book, I felt as if I had known this family for my entire life. I could see them in my mind. I knew them. I loved them. I sometimes found myself wanting to re-read a paragraph just so I could experience the emotion again. There is laughter, joy and lightheartedness....pain, passion, and longing. Sujatha skillfully takes us through a stunning range of emotions with these unpredictable characters. I sincerely hope this is not the last book that we see from this gifted new author! (hint: please consider publishing "The Cursed Life of Sreemathi Omanakumari" - - we need more!!!)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A cleverly crafted love story

    I'm sure you have heard it all before, "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love with the characters...." With "As It Is Written", this is really the case! I did not know what to expect when a friend suggested this book. I was worried I would not relate because I am not from India. The characters were so authentic that it did not matter where they were from. Some of the vocabulary threw me at first, but then I found I could easily discern it from the context. When I finished reading, I felt like I personally knew these fictional characters and witnessed their every joy and heartbreak!

    "As It Is Written" is really a cleverly crafted love story centered around a young American immigrant woman from India, her brother and his family. With her sometimes satirical and often poetic voice, Suhatha Hampton weaves a heart wrenching tale about love and life within the boundaries of culture, religion and tradition. She is able to capture these characters in particularly touching moments where you may find yourself either laughing out loud while reading or drying your eyes on your sleeve. But be forewarned, Ms. Hampton throws in some sensuality to her love story which really makes this a well rounded novel. After reading this book, your perception of the airport baggage claim area will never be the same!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    A Must Read

    This book will capture your heart from the moment you start reading it! The stories and characters are so beautifully crafted that you will find yourself crying and laughing out loud as you read. I look forward to more publications from this author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    Didn't Want it to End

    What a book. I could not put it down. The richly painted characters drew me into their world, and my heart lept and bled for them with every up and down. The backdrop of Indian culture gave the story an intellectual depth that satisfied, while the suspense, intrigue and humor completely engaged me. I can't imagine a soul who wouldn't love this book. A superbly imaginative and compelling story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    Wonderful book!

    I haven't quite finished this book yet. I have slowed down my reading of it because I don't want it to end. I love the characters. I want to belong to that family. I want to eat with them, prepare marzipan vegetables with them, celebrate my birthday with them and experience the love they have for one another. It is so beautifully written, the words just draw you in and make you feel like you are right there with the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2010

    A believable tale of uniquely beautiful women.

    As I read this book, I find the wonderful strengths and weaknesses of the women of As It Was Written feel so very honest. The characters are captivating and intriguing. The wonderful way Sujatha Hampton writes from her capricious heart leaves me feeling like I could easily embrace this abstruse family as my own. There are times when situations in the story line leave me feeling so uncomfortable that I have to set the book down for a moment; However, a moment is all I can stand away from this tale of these diverse women from the family of the rotund Dr. Raman Nair. There is humor and terrible suffering and love that is glorious and bitterly painful... and a generations old curse that threatens the life of a daughter from every generation. I would recommend As It Was Written for both women and men. There are lessons of life and love in this book from which we all could learn.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    A great read.

    I loved it. The love in this family pulls you right in. Each sentence was so carefully constructed I was able to conjure up complete images of each character. The story thoroughly enveloped me. Every description is so beautifully expressed. There was such a lovely rhythm to the writing. I am only sorry that I read it so fast. I could not wait to see what happened next. I may just read it again!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    A masterfully written tale - requisite reading for 2010!

    As It Was Written is a highly involved work of literary fiction. It's impossible not to become invested in every character's plight, as it is so craftily written from each character's perspective, regardless of their position on the "nice to not-so-nice" scale. It was such an addictive story that upon getting to the middle of the book, I only allowed myself to read one chapter at a time to savor every detail and was saddened every time I saw my bookmark creep closer to the end. I'm anxiously awaiting Sujatha Hampton's next book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2012

    Memorable Descriptions, A Mess of a Story

    I'll say this about the author: she writes a good description. Her characters are colorful and bright, and you can tell she loves to give life to them. But the big problem with this book is that it's just too much. There are characters in it who don't matter. Long dramatic descriptions about characters you never see again. Scenes that don't have anything to do with the story. And there are too many stories happening at once, and it's not clear which are important and which are not. There are scenes in the beginning of the book that seem to be there just for decoration - they never tie into anything at the end. One of the things that drew me to this book was the curse. But despite lots of flashbacks, the curse is never really brought to the foreground. And though you can see how it worked its way in at the end, it wasn't a big enough bang. There was no dramatic moment when the curse was brought to the present and tied into today's characters. There was no real feeling of desperation, there wasn't anything happening that made me need to turn the pages. Except for the flashbacks, there didn't seem to be many dire circumstances I needed to stay tuned in for. Despite all the wonderful descriptions, I never really cared about most of the characters. I couldn't sympathize with them and didn't care what happened to them. In fact, I actively disliked several of them, including two of the main characters who are involved in an illicit affair. I think the author has potential and has an interesting point of view, but needs to be reigned in. Needs some direction and editing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

    A CLEVERLY WRITTEN LOVE STORY THAT I WISH I COULD HAVE PENNED

    What to say about this novel...That I will always remember this book and the characters in it. That I always know I love a book when I feel saddened to know that it is coming to an end...A beautifully written story with a plot that evolves over time and holds you tightly to the story from beginning to end. If this is indeed Ms. Hampton's first novel I predict she will be very successful in her career.

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  • Posted March 6, 2010

    Colorful & Vivid

    A master at characterization, the people in Hampton's story quickly become people that you know and enjoy spending time with. From the five fat daughters to Dr. Dandruff and Baby George, each has his own distinct personality and issues, and each is distinctly memorable. She excels at painting unique, interesting characters who come alive in your head.

    None of her scenes are slow or drab; they are each engaging and vivid. She has a simple but powerful way of describing situations so that even though she only touches on a few details, you get a precise picture of what's going on, and it's a bright, heavy picture that leaves a lasting impression.

    I've grown tired of mass-produced storylines with with predictable characters and a writing style that can only be described as "functional" - it is refreshing to read an author who writes an imaginative story on her own terms, and in her own uncommon voice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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