In this short story collection, women from different countries and walks of life undergo transformative experiences through family and culture.
The female characters in the six stories in this volume have diverse backgrounds but also numerous similarities. For example, Uma is a married woman living in Calcutta in “Conscience” and Mia of “Change” is a widowed Californian. But both women are teachers. And while Mia has lost her husband, Glen, Uma’s marriage to Lalit is strained, as he’s rarely home. All the women dauntlessly face significant changes, which often entail traveling to or living in other countries. In the opening tale, “From the Heart,” Min-Seo is a South Korean wife who moves to France with her husband, Ji Hoon. She’s a sociable individual who now feels withdrawn, as she struggles to communicate with people in an unfamiliar tongue. Likewise, in “Fourteen Days,” Indian American Julie takes a trip to Calcutta, where her parents are from. She’s shocked when realizing that her 14-year-old maid, Saras, in India doesn’t attend school. Julie is determined to help her, despite indifference from the girl’s employer. The female characters furthermore overcome the burden of other people’s expectations. Saras, for one, ran away from home to evade an arranged marriage when she was a mere 11 years old. In the same vein, both Mia’s mother and her son, Pierce, believe she should date eligible Kyle, Glen’s former tennis partner. But Mia asserts that she’s not lonely. Ghose Chotani (Pictures Through the Rearview Mirror, 2018) uses various cultures to enrich her tales. Whether they’re persevering in their own culture or immersed in an entirely new one, the women continually learn from their experiences, which makes for dynamic characters and more robust stories. The author’s detail-laden prose is expressive, though occasionally verbose, like the description of a train that passes “the platform and buildings, then, swiftly, picked up speed, fast.” But she also infuses her stories with profundity: “Life is about constant readjustment” and anticipating that things will stay the same “is placing oneself in the puddle of ignorance.”
Six admirable female protagonists lead heartfelt and fulfilling tales.