In her US debut, Mahindra (whose first novel, The Club, was published in 1984 in Britain) chronicles the loves and...

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In her US debut, Mahindra (whose first novel, The Club, was published in 1984 in Britain) chronicles the loves and frustrations of a mother and daughter in modern India. Twenty-four-year-old Gunga has journeyed from her home in Bombay to Allahabad to see her widowed maternal grandmother, Nani-ma. While working up the nerve to convey a difficult message from her mother, Bimla, the young woman mulls over a series of shattering discoveries about her father's family: that a major source of their wealth was stockpiling wheat during the famines of WW II, and that her father was encouraged by his father to have an affair with a widowed aunt. Gunga, a self-styled modern woman with an older lover, is appalled. Then she learns that her mother, a successful doctor, was forced by her parents to give up her one true love, Shafi Ahmed, because he was a Muslim. Thus Gunga's current mission: Bimla has heard that her former love is dying of cancer, and she has left her husband's home to visit Shaft in Lahore. Faced with the good chance that she won't be welcome back in Bombay, Bimla's sent Gunga to ask Nani-ma if she might move in with her. Nani-ma is hostile to the idea, but then Bimla calls to say she's taking Shaft to New York to seek further medical treatment. Her act of self-assertion, 25 years in coming, is dramatic given the many voices (Nani-ma's included) that surround both her and Gunga, urging them to respect the system, not make waves, let themselves be taken care of. But these potentially poignant portraits of women struggling to throw off the musty mantle of learned helplessness are obscured by the story's overstuffed load of shocking revelations and secret love affairs. A frantic buzz of activity, then, that only occasionally engages.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 1566561663

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995