A BREATH OF FRESH AIR by Amulya Malladi



Slim first novel about an Indian woman haunted by the Bhopal tragedy.

Waiting at the Bhopal train station for her husband Prakash to pick her up, young Anjali could never have guessed that his forgetfulness would alter the shape of her life. Suddenly the air is unbreathable, and Anjali almost dies in one of the worst industrial accidents of the 20th century. Nearly 15 years later, she sees Prakash for the first time in many years, and the past begins to intrude on the new life she's built. In flashback, we see Anjali as a naive young woman being introduced to dashing army officer Prakash; a match is made the same evening, and a wedding date is set. Wanting to be a good, traditional Indian wife, Anjali is shocked that their marriage hardly resembles those in romantic films. Prakash treats her poorly and cheats on her; all her fine meals and sweet smiles don't win him over. After the Bhopal accident, she does the unthinkable for a woman of her culture and gets a divorce. Anjali goes back to college, becomes independent, marries gentle Sandeep, and bears his child. But Amar is born with heart and lung problems, results of Bhopal, and when Anjali sees Prakash again, her well-kept resentments tumble out. He is to blame for her 12-year-old son's illness; he is prosperous while she leads a modest life; she bears the stigma of being a divorcée in a society whose women are expected to submit to their husbands’ will. All this is absorbing stuff, particularly Anjali's struggles as a contemporary woman in India, though Malladi falters when she leaves Anjali's narrative and takes up the voices of Prakash and Sandeep. Their perspectives (Prakash is repentant, Sandeep understanding) add little to the story and ultimately detract from Anjali’s intimate portrait of her life.

Begins well with a challenging premise, then slips into conventional sentimentality.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-345-45028-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2002


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