Can a 59-year-old widow in the Indian Himalayas find new love? Does she want to?
Set in the fictional town of Hamara Nagar, the second in Woodman’s (Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes, 2012) series finds Jana as the town’s beloved fortuneteller, with the help of her adored and possibly psychic parrot, Mr. Ganguly. Jolly Grant House is home to a joyous, makeshift family: Jana; Mr. Ganguly; Mary, former children’s nurse and current resourceful housekeeper; Lal Bahadur Pun, a retired soldier; and Tilku, an orphaned Nepali boy who thinks he might be 11. Yet, a 1961 morning cracks with three misfortunes: First, Mr. Ganguly awakens the whole house with his screeching; second, Mr. Ganguly’s screeching alerts everyone to a burst water pipe; third, the reporter from the Illustrated Weekly of India is due at any minute. Determined to put her best foot forward, Jana endures a strange interview with the reporter, a Mr. Gopal, despite Mr. Ganguly’s constant warning of “Bad Bird!” Not until weeks later, when another reporter shows up for the same interview, does Jana begin to suspect that something fishy may be afoot. Perhaps she should have paid more attention to those poisoned pen letters claiming she stole Mr. Ganguly. The mystery, however, must take a back seat to the many other claims on Jana’s—and the reader’s—attention, including transcribing Grandfather MacPherson’s music, traveling by harrowing taxi cab to the dentist, interpreting dreams for Mr. Rambir’s newspaper and testing Mr. Abinath’s new elixir: Love Potion Number 10. Soon, love begins crackling through the air as besotted couples, intrigued pen pals and old flames cross Jana’s path. Crowded with charming characters, each with his or her own troubles, Woodman’s novel barely makes room for Jana’s mystery or love life.
Colorful, exuberant, yet frustratingly directionless.