FOLLOW THE RIVER by James Forman


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Fifteen years after Gandhi's death an international band of peace marchers follows the mystic Babu on a pilgrimage across India and eventually into the path of an advancing Chinese army in the Himalayan highlands. Two young marchers, Paul and Janaki, see the march and India's misery in terms of faith and reason respectively and Paul's persistence as he follows Babu right up to the saint's fiery self-sacrifice vindicates his belief in the need for some sort of spiritual purification just as his final decision to marry Janaki marks a creative merger of the two philosophies. With such an ambitious theme, Forman's characters carry a heavy burden, especially since India's problems are presented unsparingly--mobs of beggars, sacred cows and monkeys rampaging through badly needed relief rations, brahmins unwilling to help a dying woman for fear of religious contamination. Under the circumstances it's not surprising that Janaki's skeptical conclusion that India has ""too many gods"" should come off best. Paul on the other hand is supposed to be the son of a Nazi war criminal, but there's simply no outward indication of his German background--he reminds one, if anything, cf a post-Vietnam American, and the dimensions of his inner life are similarly undefined. Purely as a first look at post-independence India Follow the River is of more than routine interest, and even as a novel of ideas this must rate as a good try--but more texture of place and language and richer characterization would have made Paul's unlikely quest less arid.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1975
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux