A debut collection of intertwined short stories set in India and America.
The Almeida family, their cousins and friends live in Santa Clara, a Roman Catholic residential enclave in India. Those who remain witness over time the demolition of its graceful gardens and airy homes to make way for apartment complexes and commerce. Those who leave for America either live a life apart, at home in neither place, or, worse, live with guilt for finding happiness so far from their family. As the collection opens, Marian Almeida is a ten-year-old on the cusp of puberty in the haunting “In the Garden.” Later, in “Half the Story,” she reappears, married, living with her Irish husband and children in Cincinnati, uncertain of how to protect her older daughter from the sexuality that arrives in the form of a neighbor, a brash American divorcee. Jude Almeida, Marian’s younger brother, unwittingly instigates a wicked display of psychological violence that occurs at a New Year’s party in “The Crow and the Monkey.” In the final story, “This Is Your Home Also,” Jude is an adult, living with his elderly, increasingly ineffectual parents. In other stories, members of the extended family take center stage: Colleen, a closeted lesbian, returns from America for her mother Grace’s cataract operation in “The Bold, the Beautiful”; Grace’s son Michael and his wife visit from America with their adopted child in “Carrying”; Roddy D’Souza, a long-time friend and gymkhana card partner of Francis Almeida, begins seeing his father, who died 65 years before, riding a bike around town in the title story. Jones brings the narrative skill of a seasoned writer to this work. She is best at evoking the fearful lonesomeness of alienation, whether it is in the mind of a child observing what he cannot understand, or in the heart of a mother who cannot stop change.
An impressive debut.