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The Hero's Walk

The Hero's Walk

5.0 1
by Anita Rau Badami

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In a small, dusty town in India, Sripathi Rao struggles as a copywriter to keep his family afloat in their crumbling ancestral home. But his mother berates him for not becoming a lawyer, his son prefers social protest to work, his unmarried sister seethes with repressed desire, and his wife, though subservient, blames him for refusing to communicate with their


In a small, dusty town in India, Sripathi Rao struggles as a copywriter to keep his family afloat in their crumbling ancestral home. But his mother berates him for not becoming a lawyer, his son prefers social protest to work, his unmarried sister seethes with repressed desire, and his wife, though subservient, blames him for refusing to communicate with their daughter Maya, who defied tradition, rejecting her proper Brahmin fiancé for a Caucasian husband. Then a phone call brings tragedy: Maya and her husband have been killed in an accident leaving Sripathi to be their daughter’s guardian. Sripathi reluctantly travels to Vancouver to bring the child back to India. Nandana has not spoken a word since her parents’ death. Terrified, she resists her distant grandfather. Filled with guilt about his daughter but unable to express his feelings, Sripathi finds everything in his life falling apart. But with Nandana’s arrival, his world slowly, unexpectedly, finds new hope.

The Hero’s Walk is a remarkably intimate novel that fills the senses with the unique textures of India. With humor and keen insight, Anita Rau Badami draws us into her story of the graceful heroism of the ordinary.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Engrossing . . . Fascinating . . . This book demands to be read straight through.”
The Washington Post Book World

“DEFT AND KNOWING . . . Badami’s prose is lovely, almost poetic, and her ear for dialogue and the idiosyncrasies of her characters’ speech rings true. . . . An intimate look into the hearts and minds of a complicated, quarrelsome, yet deeply loving family.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“COMPELLING . . .[A] LUSH EVOCATION OF INDIAN LIFE . . . [with] often laugh-out-loud funny dialogue.”

“A WONDERFULLY TEXTURED TALE whose poignant events are imbued with truthfulness . . . Badami joins the ranks of such internationally celebrated authors as Michael Ondaaje.”
The London Free Press

In a twisty tale of shifting perspectives and resonant prose, Hero makes old values seem new again.
Boston Herald
This compelling novel by Indian-born Canadian writers Badami is notable for its character studies and rich descriptions.
Elle Magazine
The Hero's Walk is a novel of broad and lovely scope...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The flowering of young writers of Indian origin continues with Badami's deeply resonant debut novel, which places her in the ranks of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Akhil Sharma and Manil Suri. The scion of a once wealthy, now down-at-the-heels Brahmin family, Sripathi Rao lives in the crumbling family manse in a small city on the Bay of Bengal. At 57, Sripathi is ill-tempered, emotionally constipated and a domestic tyrant a man riding for a fall. He struggles at a mediocre job to support his dragon of a mother, unmarried but lovelorn 44-year-old sister, subservient wife and layabout son. It's the perfect setup for a domestic comedy, until fate intervenes with the sudden deaths of his daughter, Maya, and her husband, in Vancouver. Guilt-ridden for having refused to communicate with Maya because she humiliated him by marrying out of her caste and race, Sripathi brings his seven-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Nandana, back to India. Badami's portrait of a bereft and bewildered child is both restrained and heartrending; Nandana has remained mute since her parents died, believing that they will someday return. In his own way, Sripathi is also mute, unable to express his grief and longing for his dead daughter. This poignant motif is perfectly balanced by Badami's eye for the ridiculous and her witty, pointed depiction of the contradictions of Indian society. She also writes candidly about the woes of underdevelopment the "stench of fish, human beings, diesel oil, food frying," poor drains, chaotic traffic and pervasive corruption. In the course of the narrative, everyone in Sripathi's family undergoes a life change, and in the moving denouement, reconciliation grows out of tragedy, and Sripathi understands "the chanciness of existence, and the hope and the loss that always accompanied life." A bestseller in Canada, where it was a Kiriyamaa Pacific Rim Book Award finalist, Badami's novel will delight those on the lookout for works by writers on the crest of the Indian wave. Author tour. (Apr. 27) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Life in the Big House on Brahmin Street is spiraling downward. When Sripathi is 16, his father dies, leaving him with a heavily mortgaged house, care of his mother and infant sister, and gambling debts. Sripathi struggles through, eventually adding a wife and two children of his own to the household. It's now four decades since his father's death. His mother complains incessantly, his son is involved in every social protest imaginable, and he's been unable to find a suitable husband for his sister. And then things get worse: his daughter, Maya (his pride and joy before she left home for a Canadian university and shamed the family by reneging on an arranged marriage), has been killed with her Canadian husband in an automobile accident. Their daughter, seven-year-old Nandana Baker, must now make her home in India with grandparents she has never met. Somehow, the young Nandana manages to thaw Sripathi's hardened heart and give the rest of the family the power to stand up to the tyrannical family matriarch. This touching story of a family under intense pressure is especially recommended for public libraries serving a large Asian community, but the universal themes will give this broad appeal. Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-An attractive jacket pulls readers into this well-told story of a struggling family in a small city in modern India. The Raos' glory days are over, epitomized by their large home that has begun to crumble and mildew, now surrounded by taller apartment buildings. Mr. Rao, the central character, is a self-centered man made unhappy by his reversal of fortune and by his resentful wife, a radical son, a shrewish mother, and an unmarried 40-ish sister, all of whom he barely supports as a small-time advertising copywriter. They all live together, with greater or lesser degrees of grace. Mr. Rao also has a daughter in Canada from whom he became estranged when she broke off an arranged marriage and instead married a white man she met while in graduate school. Her seven-year-old daughter comes to India to live with her grandparents when her parents die in an auto accident. Nandana has not said a word to anyone since the accident, and moving to a new country and living with these odd strangers is difficult for her. The plot revolves around the life of the family as part of Indian culture, and how Nandana and her grandfather both begin to adjust to their circumstances. Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of a different character, including little Nandana-possibly the best-drawn character in a novel filled with fine characterizations. The Rao family could be anyone's family, and they all find some peace and hope for the future at book's end.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

It was dusk by the time they got a bus to the beach. They made their way to the same secluded spot at which they had scattered Maya's ashes. The tide was coming in, curling waves lapped against their feet, and seagulls swooped and pecked at drying seaweed left on the sand. Further down, pariah dogs leapt at an upturned boat, trying to get at something dangling from the high side. Sripathi walked across the wet, squelching sand until he reached the water. With a sense of déjà-vu, he emptied the ashes and watched as they mingled with the waves. Poor Ammayya, what a long, unresolved life she had lived, he thought regretfully.He went back to the cluster of mossy rocks where he had left Arun and sat down beside his son. They stayed there until the moon appeared, a silver semicircle ringed with concentric rainbow light. It would be sunny tomorrow. In the thick darkness the sea was luminous, a body of motion, living, mysterious, beautiful."You go home if you want to, Appu," said Arun, his arms locked around his raised knees on which he rested his chin. "I want to watch the turtles coming in.""How do you know that they will be here today?""A few arrived yesterday and usually the rest follow soon after.""I'll stay with you," said Sripathi after a moment's hesitation. He had lived all his life beside this same sea, and he had never spent an entire night watching it as it poured over the sand and sucked away, leaving a wavering lace of froth that it retrieved almost immediately.The moon rose higher in the sky, the beach emptied slowly, and one by one the last of the vendors turned off their Petromax lanterns and left. Now all they could hear was the susurrating of the wind in the brief stand of palm trees behind them. Suddenly, out of the sea, a dark form detached itself and staggered slowly up the damp sand. And another and another. Dozens of them. No, scores. It seemed to Sripathi that the beach itself had risen up and was rippling away from the water."Can you see them?" whispered Arun. As if the turtles would be scared off by his voice when they carried the thunder of ancient waters in their small, swivelling heads.They poured across the sand, wobbling and swaying, a humpbacked, crawling army drawn by some distant call to the shore on which they were born fifty, one hundred, two hundred years ago, to give birth to another generation. Across the water line they surged, each an olive-green dune in slow motion, until they were well out of reach of the waves. They stopped one by one and began to dig cradles for their eggs-their thick stubby hind legs powerful pistons spraying sand into the air-grunting and murmuring, moaning and sighing as they squatted over the holes and dropped their precious cargo.Arun leaned over and whispered, "Each of them lays at least a hundred to two hundred eggs, Appu."Sripathi nodded, too moved to comment. How many millennia had this been going on? he wondered, humbled by the sight of something that had started long before humans had been imagined into creation by Brahma, and had survived the voracious appetite of those same humans. In the long continuum of turtle life, humans were merely dots.
Soon the turtles were done and began to churn up the sand again, covering the holes, tamping them down tight, with slow, deliberate movements. And then the swaying trudge back to the gleaming sea. Sweeping their hind legs to erase every trace of their arrival, as meticulous as spies in foreign lands."See how cunning they are," whispered Arun again. "They are making sure predators don't find their nests by following their footprints."The last of the turtles disappeared into the waters as silently as they had arrived. They would never see their babies hatch, would not return for one full year to lay another batch of eggs at the edge of the sea that had been there longer than even they had. Their young might live or die. The eggs they left with so much care might yield another generation of turtles-or not. Sripathi thought about the chanciness of existence, the beauty and the hope and the loss that always accompanied life, and felt a boulder roll slowly off his heart.

(c) 2000 by Anita Rau Badami

Meet the Author

Born in the eastern town of Rourkela, Badami spent her childhood drifting around India as her father, a mechanical engineer and train designer, was transferred frequently. Her family moved at least eight times before she was twenty. Since her parents both spoke different Indian dialects, English was the bridging language for the family. (Badami's second language is Hindi.) The convent nuns who took care of her schooling were not always a receptive audience for Badami's budding literary talents. "Dear child," one of her teachers commented in response to a writing assignment, "what big lies you tell. Please ask your mother to see me." At school the nuns taught Greek and Roman myths, and even Celtic tales. "The only mythology I don't remember learning in school was Hindu mythology," Anita recalls. At home, however, Badami was immersed in the cultures and myths of her family and the multilingual railway workers. This mélange of myths informed Badami's formidable storytelling ability and shaped the exploration of heroism that runs throughout her latest novel.

In 1991 Anita Rau Badami left Bangalore in southern India to join her husband in Calgary, where he went to pursue his Masters in Environmental Science and then to Vancouver for a PhD in Planning. Arriving with their four-year-old son and five hundred dollars, the family was soon ensconced in a depressing basement apartment. To earn money, the former journalist, ad copywriter and children's writer ended up selling china in a mall. Of this time, Badami says, "I learned an awful lot about figurines and place settings, but I also made the most wonderful friends."

Badami began taking creative writing courses and wound up with Tamarind Mem, her master's thesis project at the University of Calgary. She sent the manuscript to Penguin Canada and quickly found herself a bestselling author with a reputation as a talented new Canadian writer. Her stories of home and away, of here and there, made her a part of the tradition Badami refers to as the post-postcolonial-immigrant school that began with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. "I don't think I could have written a novel if I had not left India," Badami said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "I find that the distance gives me perspective and passion. I was twenty-nine years in India and ten years here, so I have a foot in India and a couple of toes here. I am both doomed and blessed, to be suspended between two worlds, always looking back, but with two gorgeous places to inhabit, in my imagination or my heart."

Just after the publication of The Hero's Walk, Anita Rau Badami won the prestigious Marian Engel Award, given to a Canadian woman author in mid-career for outstanding prose writing. (Previous recipients include Carol Shields, Jane Urquhart, Bonnie Burnard and Barbara Gowdy.) Most recently, The Hero's Walk was optioned for film by a Canadian producer of See Spot Run Films in Los Angeles.

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The Hero's Walk 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing story! I thought oh this might be good but it far exceeded my expectations! I couldn't put it down it was SO good!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read The Hero's Walk several months ago yet the characters, storylines and descriptive prose have stayed with me, particularly the orphan comparing India to America and the crumbling house with plumbing problems.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'A Hero's Walk' immerses you in the world of the Rao family, with transcendant prose, compelling characterizations and a lyrical story line. A book that is moving, wise and wryly observant, it shows us a family that could be anyone's, in any country. I loved it and was sad when I could no longer lose myself in it.