A decades-spanning volume of short stories depicts the foibles of family and culture.
Rangel-Ribeiro (Baroque Music: A Practical Guide for the Performer, 2016, etc.) follows the lives of Indians at home and abroad in this thematically linked collection. The first two sections of the book, set in Goa and Mumbai, track characters as they navigate the shifting landscape between tradition and modernity. In the title story, the town of Tivolem is forced to deal with a local thief who can’t help himself from stealing—in obvious fashion—the possessions of his neighbors. In “Moon Dance,” two impoverished aristocrats argue over money in an antique carriage on the way home from a fair. In “Night Encounter,” a student’s viewing of a salacious American film inspires him to wander the Bombay streets at night, searching for adventure: “The papers said you had only to step out into the streets of an evening to be accosted by painted houris; pimps would sidle up to passersby, offering illicit pleasures. Had he somehow picked the wrong time, or the wrong day?” The final section is set in New York and concerns the experiences of Indian immigrants and their families as they assimilate into the American melting pot. In “A Kiss for Nandini,” a white American wedding crasher stumbles into an Indian wedding and falls for the eponymous bridesmaid. In “Lonely Aging Chinese-American New York Neighbor Lady,” an elderly Indian widow arrives in New York to live with her son and becomes fascinated by her Chinese neighbor across the street. Rangel-Ribeiro’s prose is lush and funny and perfectly captures the parochial worldviews of his vivid characters. The appealing collection represents the author’s work going back to 1949, and most of these tales feel distinctly like they are from another time. This works in their favor as old settings, expressions, and ways of telling a story combine perfectly into the short fiction equivalent of comfort food. Standouts include “Angel Wings,” “Loving Ayesha,” “How I Missed My Chance to Become a Real Porn Star,” and “Uncle Prabhu’s Special Y2K Party.”
A remarkable collection that fans of literary short fiction should deeply enjoy.