A beautifully rendered second novel (Daughters of the House, 1993) set in a remote Indian Shangri-La that--like the best of fables--limns a time of benevolent transformation. When Vidya, a woman of great insight, wakes to see a flock of cranes ``weaving their patterns'' in the sky over Mohurpukur, she knows that change is on the way. As she tells her beloved nephew, the eccentric but intuitively sympathetic Kunal, whom she raised and in whose home she now lives, ``the shuttle goes backwards and forwards, much the same year after year, and then the pause, like a hand wavering over a work basket looking for a new color to thread into the fabric of our days.'' And change begins that very morning as Kunal, the last of the great Kushari men, meets a starving and troubled stranger, Vikram Sen--a well-known playwright and the putative agent of change--who has just been released from prison after serving a brief sentence for his part in his wealthy wife's suicide. The Kushari family are also troubled: Gargi, who married Kunal on the rebound, mourns her lost love; Kunal regards himself as a failure in everything--from his work as a college principal to his role as a father; daughter Pia is terrified of Miss Bose, her bullying teacher; and old Miss Kushari worries that she will have to sell her Big House. Kunal feeds Vikram and directs him to the Big House, where Vikram finds work and unexpected happiness. Soon old secrets are revealed, the wicked routed, goodness rewarded, and true love found at last: perhaps too many easy happy endings, but then this is essentially a fable about the people who live in a wondrous place ``that distilled happiness and restored souls.'' Wisdom gently deployed in luminous prose: a story Indian in setting but universal in its appeal to the human heart. A distinguished accomplishment.