THE BINDING VINE by Shashi Deshpande


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Veteran Indian author Deshpande's second novel to be published here is not a huge improvement over the first (A Matter of Time, 1999). Talky and rather listless, the narrative concerns a young middle-class woman in India who overcomes despair caused by the death of her infant daughter by involving herself in the family of a comatose rape victim and reading the journals of her long-dead mother-in-law. Urmi’s nerves are jangled by any reference to baby Anu, but a chance encounter with Shakutai, the mother of a teenaged girl hospitalized after being raped and beaten, makes her aware that others are as miserable as she. Although from different classes and generations, she and Shakutai share something deeper, and looking after the mother and daughter gives Urmi time away from her thoughts. She also has begun to consider the unpublished writings of her mother-in-law. Journals revealing that Mira was forced into an unwanted marriage have prompted Urmi to view her poetry very differently and to see her death in childbirth as particularly tragic. When Urmi persuades Shakutai to take her daughter's story public in order to find the rapist, the result is yet another tragedy, but somehow the women find the means to carry on.

The common threads of female experience are laid down clearly enough, but in a curiously intellectualized and dispassionate way, and a flood of undeveloped characters doesn't make the story any easier to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-55861-267-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2001