In her knowing and beautifully written first novel, Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen transports us to rural India, where four extraordinary women confront their fates, as a family and as individuals. Self-sufficient, suspicious of their neighbors in general, and men in particular, the Panditji women have always relied on their loyalty to one another - until one of them changes the rules. The tumult in their inner lives that follows is laid bare by Aikath-Gyaltsen's lushly descriptive prose and her keen insight into the ...
In her knowing and beautifully written first novel, Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen transports us to rural India, where four extraordinary women confront their fates, as a family and as individuals. Self-sufficient, suspicious of their neighbors in general, and men in particular, the Panditji women have always relied on their loyalty to one another - until one of them changes the rules. The tumult in their inner lives that follows is laid bare by Aikath-Gyaltsen's lushly descriptive prose and her keen insight into the human heart. It should have been a day for celebrating: eighteen-year-old Chchanda, her younger sister Mala, and their old servant Parvati receive news that their beloved aunt, Madhulika, a not-quite-middle-aged woman of great beauty and charisma, is returning home from Ranchi, a nearby city, with a husband. The embroidery, sewing, and careful tending of fruit trees that have long been their meager way of eking out a living will come to an end. There will be a man in the house and he, a lawyer, is rich. But instead of rejoicing, the daughters of the house are threatened. We first encounter the narrator, Chchanda, filled with loathing for Madhu's new husband; his arrival seems uncommonly disturbing and strange. Unlike Parvati and Mala, Chchanda sees this as a fight to the death: the intruder must be expelled, through subterfuge, subtle insult, disgusted glances, knowing manipulations. But when the course of her aunt's new marriage takes an unexpected turn, Chchanda is caught off guard. It slowly becomes apparent to the reader - if not to Chchanda - that her feelings are more complicated than she would have us believe. In Aikath-Gyaltsen we encounter an enchanting new voice, deceptive in her ability to disarm as she parades for us the endless variety of human emotion and behavior: betrayal, compassion, and every shading in between. Filled with the sights, smells, sounds, and mores of rural India - glistening fish liberated from underwater traps, an old Jeep
Set in rural India, this quietly moving tale of doomed passion, scandal and betrayal sensitively probes one family's problems. Chchanda, the sarcastic, precocious teenage narrator, burns with resentment and insecurity when Aunt Madhulika, who raised her, brings home a fiance, selfish lawyer Pretap Singh. The household is a matriarchy: Chchanda's father abandoned them long ago and her mother is dead, leaving the aunt, Chchanda's sister Mala and Parvati, a thorny, vituperative Roman Catholic servant who is nevertheless embraced by the Hindu Brahmin family. Seduced by Singh, Chchanda guiltily carries on a secret affair with him while Madhulika is increasingly crippled by lupus. When her aunt dies, Chchandra, now pregnant, is free to marry her uncle-in-law, but fate and conscience intervene, taking her in a radically different direction. In sharp, shining prose Indian first novelist Aikath-Gyaltsen dissects domestic life with the gimlet precision of Jane Austen. (Jan.)
This American debut by an Indian writer considers insularity, invasion, and betrayal in the quiet but profound realm of the home. On the banks of the Koel River near Ranchi sits Panditji's House, home to three generations of self-sufficient women. The house is the source of their identity and pride and the heart of this story. Young and self-absorbed, Chchandra becomes hostile and suspicious when faced with a male interloper, the new husband of her ailing aunt Madhulika. As this outsider and rival infiltrates the daily routines of Panditji's House, Madhulika succumbs to degenerative lupus, and a shocking complication irrevocably alters the household's equilibrium. The narrative voice, sometimes vague, sometimes overanalytical, dominates this imperfect debut. Appropriate for sizable fiction, feminist, and international collections.-- Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio