Familial responsibility butts up against personal desires in these finely crafted stories.
Novelist and short story writer Upadhyay (The Guru of Love, 2003) assembles another fine collection of complex, haunting pieces set in Nepal. The title story juxtaposes the shocking news that Crown Prince Dipendra has shot himself after killing the entire royal family, with the relationship of taxi driver Ganga, who belatedly realizes that his brother Dharma is homosexual. In “The Wedding Hero,” a friendship between three bank workers is strained when two of the trio realize they're both attracted to the lovely Gauri; things backfire when Umesh decides to arrange and finance a coworker's wedding, in an attempt to impress Gauri. In “The Third Stage,” a retired film actor agrees to take part in a feature film to placate his wife and daughter—and realizes that the fantasy world of film is akin to the earthly, illusory world. The importance of family—and the heartbreak that can be found within—is described in “Father, Daughter,” in which a daughter's willful actions challenge a father's notions of caste. In “The Weight of a Gun,” the divorced mother of a grown schizophrenic son unexpectedly finds herself raising her ex-husband's newborn. And a junior accountant comes to realize that spectacular good looks are not necessarily the only thing to look for in a bride, in “Chintamani's Women.” Characters not only maneuver their way through the intricacies of love, but also navigate against the backdrop of Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, fighters who have been orchestrating a nearly decade-long civil war.
Upadhyay's plain prose makes the political crisis all the more affecting.