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Venkatraman makes a memorable debut with this lushly evoked novel set in India during WWII. Fifteen-year-old Vidya is shocked and proud to learn that her appa(father), a compassionate doctor, has joined the "freedom fighters," who follow Gandhi's example of nonviolent protest against British rule. But tragedy strikes: during a rally Vidya's father is beaten nearly to death and left with severe brain injury. Because he can no longer practice medicine, the family is forced to move in with relatives, who treat them as servants. The only bright moments of Vidya's days, otherwise spent under the thumb of her tyrannical aunt, come before dinner, when she is allowed to slip upstairs to the library and bury herself in books. More than a feisty Cinderella story (and yes, Vidya does find a prince), this novel vivifies a unique era and culture as it movingly expresses how love and hope can blossom even under the most dismal of circumstances. Ages 12—up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.