THE MIDDLEMAN by Bharati Mukherjee


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Eleven stories by Mukherjee (Wife, The Tiger's Daughter Darkness) that sometimes strain for their material, but at others penetrate with a wisdom and depth and can be evocative and moving. ""The Middleman,"" a story, of sex, criminality, and deceit in a torpid Central American country torn by guerrilla war, has overtones of standard set and characters, but in ""A Wife's Story,"" by contrast (an Indian businessman visits his student-wife in New York City), every detail rings with a captivating--and often touching--authenticity. ""Loose Ends"" (a Vietnam veteran turns rapacious criminal in sleazy Miami) labors under a carapace of the ersatz hard-boiled, but, again, ""Orbiting"" shows its author in complete command of both detail and theme in the story of an American girl who loves a politically heroic young man from Afghanistan and comes to see her own Family and country in a dimished way. Relatively slight, again, is ""Fighting for the Rebound"" (American yuppie's love affair with a Filipino beauty)' and ""The Tenant."" never quite finding its stance. nevertheless deepens a recurring theme of the book as its heroine, an Indian woman living in Iowa, comes to understand that she belongs neither to her own culture nor to her adoptive one (""She can't talk about the dead space she lives in""). ""Fathering"" (another veteran, this time caring for a hysterically troubled, Vietnam-born daughter) is an intensely detailed but message-burdened story, as is the more leisurely ""Jasmine"" (a girl from Trinidad, without papers, makes her way in Ann Arbor). The volume closes, however (""The Management of Grief""), with a splendid story of an Indian wife and mother (living in Canada) whose husband and two sons die in an airliner (believed to have been bombed by Sikh extremists)--an unpretentious story told with a quiet drama whose embrace is worldwide. At their best, masterful stories with a novelistic resonance and breadth.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Grove