In Gaur’s debut novel, an imaginative, mischievous Anglo-Indian girl changes the lives of those around her.
In the Indian army camp of Mhow in the late 1970s, “life was deliciously simple,” according this novel’s third-person narrator. “It took very little to make people happy, and they laughed a lot more than we do now.” Yet things are somewhat static, overall—until a 6-year-old Anglo-Indian youngster and her parents move in. Emma “Bunny” Hudson is an instant favorite in the neighborhood; her fair skin, blue eyes, and blond curly hair are a novelty, and she has an endearing giggle that’s “laden with just the right proportion of joy and mischief.” Bunny questions everything, is fearless, and has wonderful ideas, such as camping at night or starting a rock ’n’ roll band. She has dyslexia, so she has difficulty in school, but she has numerous talents. “Everyone says she’s the naughtiest kid on the block,” Bunny’s mother, Debbie, says, “and naughtiness is a sign of brilliance too.” Later, following a tragedy, Bunny’s grandmother joins an ashram, dedicating herself to the service of others, and Bunny’s childhood friend, Vikram Rathore, becomes convinced that he and Bunny are eternal soul mates. Over the course of this book, Gaur celebrates children’s freedom, purity, and charm with enormous fondness. However, the novel’s overly doting manner toward Bunny can become grating, as does its insistence that “Childhood is the only phase of life worth living.” This is a depressing notion, although the novel seems to prove that sentiment wrong later, when an adult attains a deeply meditative state that “opens the door to one’s infinite subconscious,” which is surely worthwhile. At times, the novel feels naïve, resembling Victorian works that tie a child’s innocence to early death. Gaur’s writing is vivid, however, and his theme is ambitious, and for some, the novel’s spiritual lessons about life after death will strike a chord.
A well-written tale that sometimes uneasily mingles its affection for childhood with metaphysical insights.