"By the end of this very first story, people half a world away have been transformed into complete human beings, full of frailties and fragile self-regard, achingly sympathetic. That's why THE RED CARPET reads like a revelation.... I recommend this book so highly!"Carolyn See, The Washington Post
"Throughout these fine, articulate stories, Lavanya Sankaran brings to life the new and old social worlds of Bangalore. More importantly, she uses the quiet dignity of her characters to reveal what's universal in the wide rift between generations. It's an unusually elegant and nuanced portrait."
John Dalton author of Heaven Lake
"[An] animated debut collection.... [These stories] are memorable for their subtle wit and convincing evocation of a dynamic world."Publishers Weekly
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In a delicious potpourri of character, subtlety, and wry humor, Lavanya Sankaran slyly reveals the wide chasm between generations and gleefully plots for the inevitable collisions between East, West, young, old, traditional, modern, religious and secular. The inhabitants of her eight perfect stories are natives of Bangalore, a nexus of "beggars and billionaires," and home to a brilliantly diverse cast of characters. There is Ashwini, a recent import from Bombay who is unaware that despite her so-called modern ways and hip talk, she is being sized up for her own suitability for the most provincial of roles: wife. A generation removed and a universe apart, Mr. D'Costa, a local gossip, finds new purpose in his retirement by surveying the neighborhood from his bedroom window. What he sees provokes a courageous and compassionate gesture that nonetheless leaves him feeling helpless and uncertain. Raju, chauffeur to a wealthy socialite, is dismayed when his "May-dum" dons miniskirts and engages in inappropriate talk, but he is just as bewildered by her unexpected acts of kindness.
Whether home is a dusty Bangalore street or a mansion in Chicago, Sankaran's "software lads," Western-educated sons and daughters, traditional parents, and lifelong residents all contribute to the messy, hilarious, but oh-so-recognizable détente that connects generations and cultures. Sharp, tender, and deeply human, The Red Carpet is a remarkable debut. (Summer 2005 Selection)
I recommend this book so highly!
The Washington Post
Traditional values and new expectations confront the diverse residents of Bangalore, where rutted, nearly impassable roads and one-room schoolhouses lie a half-hour's drive from glittering department stores selling aromatherapy candles amid the piped-in tunes of Billy Joel and Eminem, in Sankaran's animated debut collection. In "Bombay This," Ramu, a 30-year-old software employee recently dedicated to finding himself a wife, employs his mother as a matchmaker (or "Connubial Pimp," in his casual, irreverent parlance) while keeping his own eyes open, and grows increasingly drawn to a vivacious Bombay woman whose modern ways his mother can't understand. In the title story, an impoverished chauffeur's affection for his boss, the kindly memsahib all the servants call Maydum, clashes with his discomfort over what he believes are her immoral behaviors. A willful young girl and her manipulative nanny engage in an escalating battle of lies and betrayal in "Two Four Six Eight," while a young accountant, already betrayed by her father's suicide, sees her work co-opted by a slick, handsome colleague in "Mysore Coffee." Though the stories often don't end as strongly as they begin-Sankaran builds tension brilliantly but doesn't always offer a climax to balance it-they are memorable for their subtle wit and convincing evocation of a dynamic world. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Traditional southern Indian society clashes with fast-changing Western ways, in a debut collection of eight elegant, nicely developed stories. Sankaran has her finger on the economic pulse that motivates many of these striving young characters, all from the provincial city of Bangalore, to embrace modern technological changes at the peril of rupturing family and culture. In "Bombay This," the fine opener, a 30ish "software lad" tentatively invites his mother to begin matchmaking for him; as a member of the ruling class buttressing its traditional privileges with new technocratic trimmings, Ramu is heeding "the true Call of the Patriarchy." He and his mother separately land on the same prospect, Bombay-bred snob Ashwini, whose ultramodern ways prove both attractive and ruinous. In "Alphabet Soup," a young Indian woman who has grown up in America and attended elitist East Coast schools decides it's time to fulfill "multicultural obligations" and head back to India, where she can proudly be "Brown in a Brown country." She defies her father, who made the choice to come to America in the first place, but while she is in Bangalore she recognizes the "maddening" complexities that enter into the choice to leave or stay. "The Red Carpet" takes readers into two starkly different castes. Poor, uneducated Rangappa has to support his parents, sister, wife and baby daughter on a pittance of a salary as a driver, while his glamorous employer lives in idle richness. Scandalously modern in dress and habits, the attractive Mrs. Choudhary is liberal and kind toward Rangappa and his family, though she renames him Raju on some inexplicable whim. "Apple Pie, One by Two" revisits the chummy software lads, whohave attended the best engineering schools in America and are eagerly sought after for jobs. Each one plays out his childhood fantasies of success made in America: "the nabob in the storybook, another foolish Indian abroad."Well-polished, smartly relevant fiction.