This story about the second-class status of women in India doesn’t fully confront some of the issues it raises.

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The Curse of Damini

Mohanty’s debut novel tells the life story of a female born in India during the British occupation, following her to modern times while chronicling her struggles against male-dominated Indian culture.  

Renuka was an atypical Indian girl. Born during 20th-century India’s era as Great Britain’s colony, the determined youth became a freedom fighter against the British, even though females were conditioned by Indian culture to accept a passive role in society. Renuka’s outspoken ways and vocal opinions on the second-class status of women caused her trouble when it came to marriage, career, and family. Because her first arranged marriage fell flat, she found the passive Shashank as a husband, but she still struggled against traditions and beliefs that kept Indian women oppressed. Among the community, one such attitude held that her husband’s family was cursed and that ill fortune would befall the women they married. Although Renuka managed to overcome this and became a successful businesswomen and feminist author preaching better treatment for Indian women, she was occasionally reminded as she went through life that the old ways were not really gone, specifically the methods by which her good friend Mandira also rose to power with “newly bloomed ambitions.” While the book’s title suggests a story about an evil curse, the narrative is actually a broadside against the poor treatment of Indian women by men. “It’s really unfortunate to be born as a female in this world,” says Papia, one of Renuka’s friends. The author knows Indian customs and traditions and writes with authority about both. Renuka is a well-characterized bundle of contradictions, capable one second of giving Shashank an ultimatum in an “icy-cold voice” and desiring sex with him in the next. Unfortunately, Shashank is so passive as to seem unrealistic. Mandira, who’s as ambitious as Renuka but without a Shashank-type husband, uses guile and cunning—like Indian men—to get what she wants, yet she’s portrayed as vile and duplicitous. Readers might conclude that only through luck—the fortune of a failed first arranged marriage—was Renuka able to succeed on her terms.  

This story about the second-class status of women in India doesn’t fully confront some of the issues it raises.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4828-5108-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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