The Folded Earth

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The Folded Earth: A Novel

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After her husband, Michael, dies in a mountain-climbing mishap, Maya flees to the tiny Himalayan town of Ranikhet to escape her past and find peace. While teaching English at a Christian school, she befriends her teenage neighbor and milk delivery girl, Charu, whose lover, Kundan, has recently left the village to work in Delhi. Though he sends Charu letters, she cannot read or write. Maya takes on the role of interlocutor initially, but soon begins teaching Charu so that she can continue the epistolary romance on her own. Meanwhile, Maya finds herself caught up in an unexpected love affair with her landlord’s nephew, Veer. Though she has acclimated well to life in the village (“I became a hill person who was only at peace where the earth rose and fell in waves like the sea”), the premature death of her husband still haunts her. Veer seems to be the key to overcoming her grief, but revelations of his past threaten the emotional enclave Maya has fashioned for herself in the lush Indian hills. Similar to the pace of life in the village, Roy’s follow-up to An Atlas of Impossible Longing is occasionally slow going but her musical writing and strong imagery compensate, and individual moments sparkle. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"In An Atlas of Impossible Longing, Anuradha Roy bravely explores love, the caste system, and familial lines in a vivid portrait of war-stricken twentieth-century India. This absorbing story defies prediction. Roy’s grace and mesmerizing language stayed with me long after I closed the book.” —Katie Crouch, author of Girls in Trucks

“A novel of beauty, poignancy, and gut-churning suspense. . . . A lyrical love letter to India’s past—an India of innocent child brides and jasmine-scented summer evenings. . . . Poetic and evocative, Roy’s writing is a joy.” —Financial Times

“Deftly and sensitively narrated.”—The Independent

"A story to lose yourself in.. . . Anuradha Roy is a wonderful writer. . . . this tale of three generations of an Indian family, set over the span of the 20th century, is brilliantly told [and] intensely moving." —Sunday Express

“Roy’s novel is engaging from start to finish and difficult to put down.”—The Sunday Sun

"Recalls classics from Great Expectations to The Cherry Orchard. . . . Roy's prose is luscious yet economical. Capturing the rhythms of life in rural backwater and big city alike, she strings together jewel-like episodes. . . . giving her story the quality of something remembered." —The National Newspaper

“Now here is a perfect monsoon read: an exquisitely-written first novel that flows limpid and elegiac. . . . you might find yourself unbearably moved by her delicate probing of the fragility of love and longing.”—India Today

Country and Town HouseMagazine
“[A] deeply unsettling but beautiful novel . . . utterly enrapturing. . . . As always, Roy’s writing remains gently poignant and metaphoric throughout, every vignette and scenario she constructs feels multilayered and deeply meaningful.”
For Books' Sake

“A perfect treat . . . Roy brings her characters vividly and amusingly to life.”

The Economist Crossword Fiction Award Committee
Winner of The Economist Crossword Fiction Award 2011

"How does a writer compete against the media's invasion of public discourse in all its chattering, hectoring, commercially packaged format. One way could be by creating a small, inviolable space in which to observe and record all the subterranean upheavals to create those moments of clarity that we value as literature. The small diamond that we have unearthed and enjoyed is called The Folded Earth."

International Praise for The Folded Earth:

“[Roy’s] narrative is poised and her language precise and poetic, without being flamboyant . . . a story about love and hate, continuity and change, loss and grief in a convincing and memorable setting.”
The Independent

“Anuradha’s ability to seamlessly place the private lives of her characters within a larger socio-political setting is what she carries into her second book [as well] . . . at the end of The Folded Earth you feel a firm belief in the redemptive qualities of life and love.”

Daily Mail
“A gently perceptive story, half comic and half poignant, of a woman’s struggle to forget her sorrows in new surroundings.”
The Sunday Times

“Tight with life. . . .Roy’s attention to individual words pays off as she conveys the full texture of experiences. . . . Even minor characters are evoked with inventive idiosyncrasy.”

"The Folded Earth is pure pleasure, that old fashioned sort of novel in which one can immerse oneself; an absolute treat."
Business World

“Eminently readable, a literary novel that feels timeless and authentic.”

The Deccan Herald
“Roy has an admirably restrained style and her novel offers a vivid evocation of North India. She conjures up striking images with the lightest of touches.”
The Tatler

"A jewel of a story."

Country and Town House Magazine
“[A] deeply unsettling but beautiful novel . . . utterly enrapturing. . . . As always, Roy’s writing remains gently poignant and metaphoric throughout, every vignette and scenario she constructs feels multilayered and deeply meaningful.”
For Books' Sake

“A perfect treat . . . Roy brings her characters vividly and amusingly to life.”

“There is a gentle perfection to the way Roy writes. . . . A beautiful love story. . . . about people who love and long—impossibly?—and love again.”
The Hindu

“Anuradha Roy’s second novel demands that the reader pause, slow down, savour this work. . . . I hear echoes of Anita Brookner and Edna O’Brien and other writers like them as Roy brings Maya and her travails to life.”

The Washington Post
Praise for An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy:

“Every once in a great while, a novel comes along to remind you why you rummage through shelves in the first place. . . . [A]s you slip into the book’s pages, you sense you are entering a singular creation. . . . And then, suddenly, you are swept away. . . . This, you think, is the feeling you had as you read Great Expectations or Sophie's Choice or The Kite Runner. This is why you read fiction at all.”

Library Journal
Young and widowed, Maya tries to escape the world and her own troubled past by teaching school in a village high in the foothills. Then outside agitators take over the local elections, splitting the village (and causing trouble for the peasant girl Maya is helping on the side). Her landlord's nice nephew distracts Maya further. Roy did well with her debut, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, which was translated into 14 languages; anyone who loves to read about the Subcontinent should want this.
Library Journal
A young widow moves to a remote Himalayan village, wishing to escape the trappings of modernity.
Kirkus Reviews
Gentle comedy, bitter tragedy and grief intertwine in an affectionately delineated portrait of an Indian hill community. While ostensibly offering a leisurely exploration of the town of Ranikhet in the foothills of the Himalayas, Roy (An Atlas of Invisible Longing, 2011) has achieved something larger, a poem to the natural world and its relentless displacement by the developed one. Maya, a young widow whose husband Michael died trekking in the mountains, has come here to be near where his body was found and to teach at a local school. Her landlord, Diwan Sahib, a retired man of influence, is rumored to own a cache of valuable letters between Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru. This secret passion is mirrored in two contemporary romances, Maya's liaison with Diwan's nephew Veer and the love between illiterate hill girl Charu and a cook. Roy pulls politics, society, ecological warning and history into her slow, episodic story, but it's her love for the creatures, landscapes and eternal beauty of this place that inspire it. Finally events gather speed after an act of petty spite against a neighbor and his pet, culminating in death, a terrible discovery and an act of shattering revenge. Despite an occasional sense of drift, this understated, finely observed book expresses a haunting vision. A writer to watch.
Andrea Thompson
…quietly mesmerizing…While there are scenes of tension and intrigue…the novel's mood remains elegiac rather than fraught, expressed through small tragedies…Roy is particularly adept at mining the emotional intricacies of the relationship between Maya and Diwan Sahib, which also serves to symbolize India's uneasy passage from tradition to modernity.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451633337
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 269
  • Sales rank: 779,410
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Anuradha Roy's first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, has been published in 16 countries and translated into 13 languages across the world. It has been named by World Literature Today as one of the 60 most essential books on modern India and was shortlisted for the Crossword Prize. Her second novel, The Folded Earth, was published this year in the UK and India. She was the winner of the Picador-Outlook Non-fiction Award in 2004. Anuradha Roy was educated in Hyderabad, Calcutta and Cambridge (UK). Her journalism and book reviews have been widely published. She is an editor at Permanent Black, an independent press publishing in South Asian history, politics and culture. She lives mainly in Ranikhet, India, with her husband Rukun Advani and their dog, Biscoot.
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Read an Excerpt


The girl came at the same hour, summer or winter. Every morning, I heard her approach. Plastic slippers, the clink of steel on stone. And then her footsteps, receding. That morning she was earlier. The whistling thrushes had barely cleared their throats, and the rifle range across the valley had not yet sounded its bugles. And, unlike every other day, I did not hear her leave after she had set down my daily canister of milk.

She did not knock or call out. She was waiting. All went quiet in the blueness before sunlight. Then the soothing early morning mutterings of the neighborhood began: axes struck wood, dogs tried out their voices, a rooster crowed, wood-smoke crept in through my open window. My eyelids dipped again and I burrowed deeper into my blanket. I woke only when I heard the General walking his dog, reproaching it for its habitual disobedience, as if after all these years it still baffled him. “What is the reason, Bozo?” he said, in his loud voice. “Bozo, what is the reason?” He went past every morning at about six thirty, which meant that I was going to be late unless I ran all the way.

I scrabbled around, trying to organize myself—make coffee, find the clothes I would wear to work, gather the account books I needed to take with me—and the milk for my coffee billowed and foamed out of the pan and over the stove before I could reach it. The mess would have to wait. I picked up things, gulping my coffee in between. It was only when I was lacing my shoes, crouched one-legged by the front door, that I saw her out of the corner of an eye: Charu, waiting for me still, drawing circles at the foot of the steps with a bare toe.

Charu, a village girl just over seventeen, lived next door. She had every hill person’s high cheekbones and skin, glazed pink with sunburn. She would forget to comb her hair till late in the day, letting it hang down her shoulders in two disheveled braids. Like most hill people, she was not tall, and from the back she could be mistaken for a child, thin and small-boned. She wore hand-me-down salwar kameezes too big for her, and in place of a diamond she had a tiny silver stud in her nose. All the same, she exuded the reserve and beauty of a princess of Nepal—even if it took her only a second to slide back into the awkward teenager I knew. Now, when she saw I was about to come out, she stood up in a hurry, stubbing her toe against a brick. She tried to smile through the pain as she mouthed an inaudible “namaste” to me.

I realized then why she had waited so long for me. I ran back upstairs and picked up a letter that had come yesterday. It was addressed to me, but when I opened it, I had found it was for Charu. I stuffed it into my pocket and stepped out of the front door.

My garden was just an unkempt patch of hillside, but it rippled with wildflowers on this blue and gold morning. Teacup-sized lilies charged out of rocks and drifting scraps of paper turned into white butterflies when they came closer. Everything smelled damp, cool, and fresh from the light rain that had fallen at dawn, the first after many hot days. I felt myself slowing down, the hurry draining away. I was late anyway. What difference did a few more minutes make? I picked a plum and ate it, I admired the butterflies, I chatted of this and that with Charu.

I said nothing of the letter. I felt a perverse curiosity about how she would tell me what she wanted. More than once, I heard her draw breath to speak, but she either thought better of it or came up with, “It has rained after three weeks dry.” And then, “The monkeys ate all the peaches on our tree.”

I took pity on her and produced the letter from my pocket. It had my address and name, written in Hindi in a large, childish hand.

“Do you want me to read it for you?” I said.

“Yes, alright,” she said. She began to fiddle with a rose, as if the letter were not important, yet darted glances in its direction when she thought I was not looking. Her face was transformed by relief and happiness. “My friend Charu,” the letter said:

How are you? How is your family? I hope all are well. I am well. Today is my tenth day in Delhi. From the first day I looked for a post office to buy an inland letter. It is hard to find places here. It is a very big city. It has many cars, autorickshaws, buses. Sometimes there are elephants on the street. This city is so crowded that my eyes cannot go beyond the next house. I feel as if I cannot breathe. It smells bad. I remember the smells of the hills. Like when the grass is cut. You cannot hear any birds here, or cows or goats. But the room Sahib has given me is good. It is above the garage for the car. It faces the street. When I am alone at the end of the day’s cooking, I can look out at everything. I get more money now. I am saving for my sister’s dowry and to pay off my father’s loan. Then I can do my heart’s desire. Send me a print of your palm in reply. That will be enough for me. I will write again.

Your friend.

“Who is it from?” I asked Charu. “Do you know someone in Delhi, or is this a mistake?”

“It’s from a friend,” she said. She would not meet my eyes. “A girl. Her name is Sunita.” She hesitated before adding: “I told her to send my letters to you because—the postman knows your house better.” She turned away. She must have known how transparent was her lie.

I handed her the letter. She snatched it and was halfway up the slope leading from my house to hers before I had closed my fist. “I thought I taught you to say thank you,” I called after her. She paused. The breeze fluttered through her dupatta as she stood there, irresolute, then ran down the slope back to me. She spoke so quickly her words ran into each other: “If I bring you extra milk every day . . . will you teach me how to read and write?”

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