Sister India

Sister India

by Peggy Payne
3.8 8

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Overview

Sister India by Peggy Payne

Hailed by critics, this is a novel of fear and awakening, of culture and chaos, of violence and redemption... and of the mysterious Madame Natraja, an expatriate from South Carolina settled in the holy city of Varanasi near the banks of the Ganges River, and unprepared for the course her life is about to take.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573221764
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 01/01/2001
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.87(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

Peggy Payne is a journalist and travel writer who has published articles on more than twenty-five countries. She has been the recipient of an NEA grant to study fiction at Berkeley, and an Indo-American Fellowship to research this novel in Varanasi. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including God: Stories and New Stories from the South. She lives near Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Sister India 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Peggy Payne's latest book, 'Sister India,' leads you into a hidden corner of the continent that few tourists ever encounter. You experience India through her empathy for the people and with her eyes. I now feel as if I have been there: sensing the eroticism that always is present in Indian culture, living with that clammy heat and becoming so engrossed in Sister India's personal life that I didn't want the book to end. We need a sequel; can we petition the author?
Guest More than 1 year ago
(Please note: this is a revision of the review I sent in yesterday.) Before and after my three extensive trips to India I read a number of novels. The best was E.M. Forster's A Passage to India (Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam New York). It is anything but a turgid read. In fifty-seven short chapters Payne evokes the steamy heat, smells and sounds of cities along the Ganges. The plot is simple--four characters inhabiting a guesthouse in Varanasi and how they cope with a mandated curfew. The pace is fast but there's nothing superficial about this accomplished novel. NO WONDER IT'S A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK FOR 2001.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Sister India while traveling in Florida. As a result, I missed all the palms of Naples and found myself, instead, transported to the holy city of Varanasi. I stayed at the Saraswati Guest House managed by the weighty Madame Natraja, an American with North Carolina roots. 'I can stare at whatever comes my way,' she says to herself after more than 20 years on foreign soil. Other guests include Jill Thornton, a young single woman who is returning home after a business trip to New Delhi; TJ Clayton, a county-government middle manager with a grant to study the pollution-plagued River Ganges; and Marie Jasper who comes late in life with her 'spotted stick of a wrist' in search of a meaningful experience. We, the readers, are guests, too. We ride the open-air rickshaws that clash together in traffic jams. We see saris swirling with color, we smell the oily frying of puffed bread, and we hear holy men chanting at dawn. We sit on rooftops, and we stand on riverbank bathing ghats. After reading Sister India, we will remember always the continuously burning funeral pyres on the Ganges shoreline. We will never forget our walks through those narrow, shadowly lanes 'only two shoulders wide.' This novel not only perks the senses, but it also stimulates the mind with engaging aspects of Hinduism. Peggy Payne confronts religious violence through her depiction of friction between the Hindu and Muslin. We, like Marie, experience the painful silence that comes after the bomb in the box of sweets. We share the experiences of all the guests, and we appreciate how Marie feels about her time in Varanasi: 'Yet the week, the mere week, she had spent in this city was seven lifetimes, each day so intense. At her age, there was nothing more valuable than that.' Read Sister India. Savor some days in Varanasi, and tell Madame Natraja I think of her often.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reader smells, tastes, hears and sees India through the beautiful descriptions of the author. I was transported to the narrow streets of Varnanasi, to the steps leading down to the Ganges, to the palace of Indian royalty, to the shops where I could buy sweets and beautiful silks. I was involved in the mystery surrounding Madame Natraja and the guests in her inn.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author may have done a lot of research on how the ashes of dead bodies are mixed with the river Ganges, but she doesn't seem to have selected the right name for her main character: 'Natraja' is an out-and-out male name(Its the name of one of the forms of the Hindu God Shiva), whereas its been assigned to a female!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just as there are formula Bollywood movies from India, now there is American formula 'literature' written about India, in which one of the common and over-done themes is about abused Indian woman. Bad mother-in-law, abusive husband, dowry and maybe even death, superstitious and backward Hindu practices and beliefs, poverty and pollution (viewed as a sort of chronic feature that was always part of India), and general social backwardness - in other words, badly in need of being rescued. Of course, the cure to this plight is held by one or more of the following privileged groups: Western Feminists; 'South Asians' since they already escaped into Westernization; and Proselytizers.
harstan More than 1 year ago
For over two decades, American Madame Natraja managed the small guesthouse Saraswati. When she lived in segregated Nevus, North Carolina in the 1950s, people knew the three hundred pound plus woman as Estelle. A scandal forced Estelle to leave town and she kept moving until she settled in India's holiest of cities, Varanasi.

Her adopted home city has racial problems too as violence periodically erupts between the Hindus and Muslims. When someone murders a Muslim near Saraswati, the city leaders impose a strict curfew with no one allowed to leave their homes. The guesthouse visitors see a side of India they never expected to observe and learn how precious life truly is. Madame Natraja never veers from her set course until a friend vanishes.

The Lonely Planet tour guidebook lists the main protagonist as a 'one woman blend of East and West'. That is a very insightful look at Madame Natraja, who understands her western roots even as she embraces aspects of eastern culture. The story line is intriguing and complex, as Peggy Payne has written an intense novel with many layers of interpretation available to the reader.

Harriet Klausner