Overview

An English scholar, his Indian bride, their triplets, and a randy ex-cabbie grandfather look for a sense of home and family in a sunny Northern California suburb. In 1974, the young and callow Englishman George Armitage goes to Madras in the hopes of returning with at least the beginning of his Ph.D. dissertation. Instead, he comes home with a bride named Viji, an Indian woman he barely knows. This seemingly unlikely pair eventually wind up in Sacramento, where they buy a ranch house and give birth to triplets. ...
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The Prayer Room

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Overview

An English scholar, his Indian bride, their triplets, and a randy ex-cabbie grandfather look for a sense of home and family in a sunny Northern California suburb. In 1974, the young and callow Englishman George Armitage goes to Madras in the hopes of returning with at least the beginning of his Ph.D. dissertation. Instead, he comes home with a bride named Viji, an Indian woman he barely knows. This seemingly unlikely pair eventually wind up in Sacramento, where they buy a ranch house and give birth to triplets. In this new American world of shag carpets and pudding pops, Viji seeks consolation in her prayer room, which she visits frequently to gossip, sass, and seek advice from the framed portraits of her dead relatives. It is here where Viji feels most herself, where she immerses herself in the comforts of home, and where these deceased family members “felt as real to her as she’d been to them”. The relative calm of Viji’s California existence is interrupted when George’s father shows up on their doorstep, unexpected and unannounced. Granddad Stan encourages the triplets to pee in the rosebushes, beds the neighbor’s maid, and takes every opportunity to flummox Viji in every way he can. So when Viji’s sister sends an out-of-the-blue invitation to visit India, she prepares for her first trip home in nearly eleven years, not knowing for sure if she’ll ever return to the States. A hilarious and heartfelt debut, 'The Prayer Room' re-examines the meaning of family — the people who live down the hall, the people who exist only in our memories, and the people who roll their eyes at you from within their picture frames.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her debut novel, Sekaran indulges in beautiful prose that unfortunately obscures a ponderous narrative. Art history scholar and Englishman George Armitage went to India for the research, but returned with an Indian wife, Viji, so out of sorts she can't even recognize her husband when they get separated at the airport ("They all looked like George. Which one had she married?"). In short order, they move to Sacramento and Viji gives birth to triplets. As their children wade into adolescence, George blandly flirts with infidelity, and Viji is afflicted with poorly explained midlife ennui. The plot, as it is, involves the arrival of George's widowed father and Viji's solo visit to India at the request of her sister. Lovely writing doesn't make up for Sekaran's vacant characterization; as the characters' problems are never clearly established, readers won't find much satisfaction in the old family secrets and healed wounds meant to resolve them. (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Sekaran's first novel follows the story of Viji and George, who meet in India while George is doing art history research. After their brief affair, Viji's traditional Indian family pressures George into marrying her. The couple moves to Sacramento, where George begins a teaching job and Viji sets up house, eventually bearing triplets. Their prosaic American life is suffused with the influences of India, including Viji's pungent cooking and the puja room where she prays, surrounded by pictures of dead relatives. Adding to the cultural mix, George's father, Stan, leaves England to live with George and Viji, but his racist attitude toward Viji, affair with a neighbor's cleaning woman, and unorthodox behavior with his grandchildren further stress Viji's and George's already tense lives. Only when Viji attempts to gain some perspective by taking the children to India for an open-ended visit with her family do she and George come to an understanding of their past and what they mean to each other. Sekaran's lyrical prose and insightful cultural details make this an absorbing story. Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Joy Humphrey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596929333
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/30/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 781,123
  • File size: 366 KB

Meet the Author

About the Author: Shanthi Sekaran splits her time between Berkeley, California and Nottingham, England, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She’s a graduate of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied with Alice McDermott and Stephen Dixon and was awarded the prestigious Elliot Coleman Fellowship for Fiction. She’s been published in the anthology 'Best New American Voices 2004'.
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