Nine short fictions luminously detailing events that lead characters to irrevocably cross the invisible line separating their pasts from new experiences, new insights, even new existences.
In settings that range from her native India to Cornwall, Mexico, and Canada, Desai deftly sketches the scenes as she introduces varied characters. The three best stories are “Diamond Dust,” “Winterscape,” and “The Rooftop Dwellers.” In the first, a man's devotion to his notoriously cantankerous dog leads him to act precipitously with fatal consequences. “Winterscape” details how the aunt and mother of an Indian married to a Canadian visit the couple and their newborn son and, as the unfamiliar snow falls, understand the great cultural differences that separate them. “The Rooftop Dwellers,” perhaps the tale most redolent of contemporary India, describes a young, impecunious woman who moves to New Delhi to work on a literary magazine and, renting a room on a family's rooftop, begins to enjoy the freedom such a life permits, despite a robbery and a bullying landlord. In other notable pieces, , an unexpected visit from a former college friend underlines a couple's growing frailty and distance from their past (“Royalty”); a young Mexican studying in the US returns to the town where he grew up and finds it changed and energized, while his family remains querulously in the past (“Tepoztlan Tomorrow”); and a retired consultant running a hotel in Cornwall with his wife finds consolation after her death by closing the premises to guests and feeding the badgers that come out at night (“Underground”).
A quiet but deeply satisfying collection from the distinguished author and Booker finalist (i>Fasting, Feasting, not reviewed, etc.).