Someone Else's Gardenby Dipika Rai
In the vein of Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us, Dipika Rai’s soulful debut novel is a moving multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters in rural India struggling to break free of the social traditions fencing them in. Standing out among works by Shobhan Bantwal, Chitra Divakaruni, and other emerging Indian writers, Rai’s/b>
In the vein of Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us, Dipika Rai’s soulful debut novel is a moving multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters in rural India struggling to break free of the social traditions fencing them in. Standing out among works by Shobhan Bantwal, Chitra Divakaruni, and other emerging Indian writers, Rai’s Someone Else’s Garden offers a rare look at life in the Indian countryside, far from the more well-trafficked literary settings of New Delhi and Mumbai, in an evocative, atmospheric story of one woman’s soulful fight to take control of her life.
Rai's novel takes readers to an India where women are little more than a commodity and burden and life is a daily struggle.
Mamta is old to be marrying. At 20, with a disfiguring facial birthmark, she has known nothing but deprivation and scorn her entire life. Her father hates her so much that once she became betrothed, he ordered her mother to feed her only enough to keep her alive. Her conception brings back only pain and bitter memories to her mother. Mamta remembers nothing but deep poverty in the rural village where she has lived since birth. But all of that changes for her, or at least she hopes it will change, when she is finally to be married. In her part of India, where most girls are symbolically wed at age 8 and taken to the marriage bed as soon as they start menstruating, Mamta is an oddity. She has dreamt about the day her prince will come for her on a fine horse, but when he does show up, he is anything but a prince. Like the other men in her life, her new husband is no bargain. When Mamta dons her red wedding dress for the ceremony, she discovers she has traded one terrible life for another. Soon, she is given a choice and she makes it, but that decision only haunts her over the coming years. Rai, a journalist, writes with deep understanding of the poverty and pain of women whose lives are literally at the mercy of men. Although she is skilled, she also tends to be longwinded and her story meanders, leaving the reader wondering what one passage has to do with other. She has also populated her tale with a dizzying amount of characters: Readers will have to stay on their toes to sort them out.
Relentlessly depressing and grim, Rai's book offers an array of unlikable characters against a backdrop that would make Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm grab a bottle of antidepressants.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
Dipika Rai was born, raised, and educated in India. She worked as a freelance journalist for many years, writing for various publications around the globe. She divides her time between India and the island of Bali, where she lives with her husband, two children, and her devoted pets. This is her first novel.
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In the rural part of India where family tradition is strictly observed, Mamta is sold by her family in marriage. Soon afterward, her depraved husband sells her kidney to pay for his hookers. When that money runs out he plans to sell her other kidney. Mamta learns of his deadly plan so she flees. With no place else to go she returns home where her father and brother help her escape to another part of India. Mamta finds employment and sends money home, but her mother considers her dead for leaving her husband as that is an unacceptable breach of custom and religion. Her brother-in-law Lokend arrives trying to win a public office election, but a worker of his rival severely batters him. Mamta nurses Lokend back to health. They fall in love before returning together to their village. This is not an easy read as Dipika Rai displays a dark gruesomeness in rural India. Not only are female rights ignored as Mamta is sold into marriage and her kidneys and other organs owned by her spouse, but her mother and son-on-law accept that as a husband's right. A late spin to bring some hope into the gloomy plot feels like an unneeded Americanized addition to an otherwise strong grim look at the ugly side of humanity. Timely with today's headlines as the House of Representatives Republicans and nine Democrats who voted against the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 would change their vote if they read Someone Else's Garden. Harriet Klausner