As Tara journeys from India to America to help her sister, Kamala, at every turn she befriends people coping with their own cultural dislocations.
Kamala has called on Tara to watch over her daughter, Lavi, while she takes her son, Rahul, to see an Ayurvedic doctor. She’s hoping for some miracle to treat his autism, which has made the simplest errand fraught with anxiety, imperiled his place at school, and strained her marriage. Over the course of Viraraghavan’s debut novel, Rahul’s autism becomes a metaphor for the immigrant experience of mute bewilderment in the face of a confusing landscape. An Indian grandfather visits his daughter and her family, yet she barely acknowledges his presence, leaving him to meditate upon the crowded loneliness of America. An Israeli woman seeks a new life with a new husband she met on the beach and a new, less stressful job as a housekeeper only to find herself a distrusted stranger in her employer’s home. A graduate student in biology notices an alarming level of surveillance and ethnic profiling. A recent immigrant working for a seedy Indian restaurant suspects his boss of participating in the sex-slave trade. The husband and wife of an arranged marriage struggle to find happiness neither can give the other. Threading through their stories are the school book reports of a mysterious Danisha. Indeed, the land of opportunity repeatedly disappoints, provoking impassioned responses, ranging from infidelity to paranoid delusions. Viraraghavan shifts the narrative perspective, with each new chapter (many as brief as one page) taking up the thread of one of several tales. Consequently, no one story gains momentum, cut off just as the tension begins to build and suspended while several other characters’ stories resume play.
A cast of compelling characters with provocative tales frustratingly fractured.