A slow-moving but worthwhile exploration of common marriage in Rakcham, India.

MURMUR OF THE LONELY BROOK

In Dey’s debut novel, an Indian woman, newly wed, learns that she will be shared in marriage with her husband’s brother.

In Rakcham, near the Tibetan border, 22-year-old Pravin lives with his wife, Nisha; his younger brother, Diwakar; their father, Shevak; their mother, Parvati; and his kid sister, Ria. Pravin’s thoughts are primarily of Nisha, whom he loves. A beauty, Nisha is from Ribba and studied literature at college, where she met Pravin. Nisha is in love with Pravin and fantasizes about their future together, even though her lot will be farming, cooking, bearing children and ensuring the happiness of others. To support the family, Pravin, an electrician, works in the city, which limits the time he spends at home. In his absence, Diwakar and Nisha grow closer, though she thinks of him as a brother. A few weeks later, home on a brief work leave, Pravin proposes a common marriage—he and Diwakar will share Nisha as their wife. The plan makes sense economically and culturally for the family unit, but it troubles Nisha, who has no choice or say in the matter. Author Dey calls attention to the primitive tradition of common marriage, still practiced in some remote communities in India. Although the brothers share one wife, as characters, they are diverse. Pravin is traditional, pragmatic, quick to anger and capable of managing city life, while Diwakar is loyal, affectionate and dreamily sensitive, not just with Nisha, but in his appreciation of the pastoral life in the Himalayan foothills. Although well told, the narrative’s pacing sometimes lags, and the book’s raison d’être—the common marriage—is not openly discussed until the final third. One interesting, ironic twist about women’s sexuality in the novel: Although one female character suffers in an arranged marriage and satisfies her husband’s libido, it’s nonetheless acceptable for her to seek sexual satisfaction from her husband’s live-in friend—with no knowledge or consent of her husband. A subplot involving kid sister Ria, aggressively infatuated with boyfriend Jeet, offers hope that her future will be more expansive, loosening the traditional boundaries of outmoded practices. Since Nisha is powerless to reject or affect Pravin’s decision to share her with his brother, her options are few. The outcome is hardly a surprise and, if anything, seems to support tradition. Still, the tale is quietly strong in its portrayal of an Indian family and their lives of ritual, devotion and sacrifice.

A slow-moving but worthwhile exploration of common marriage in Rakcham, India.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988170001

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Salfas

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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