TIVOLEM by Victor Rangel-Ribeiro


Email this review


Longtime US resident Rangel-Ribeiro, a native of Goa who turned to fiction at age 72, debuts with a tale that luminously evokes life in that former Portuguese colony in India. The pace of this Narayan-like novel is sweetly contemplative, as befits the doings in the small backwater village of Tivolem, where everybody’s business is everybody’s business. The year is 1933, and while reports of external events—the rise of Hitler, Gandhi’s mounting protests, and the engulfing Great Depression in America—are indeed discussed by local luminaries at their leisure, striking now and then a discordant note, the emphasis remains on the village and whosoever happens to live in it. One of those is the 35-year-old Marie-Santana, who’s returned to the home of her grandmother after spending decades abroad in Mozambique, where her family had emigrated. Marie-Santana’s arrival sparks all sorts of rumors: She’s rich, she’s had an abortion, and—most sensationally and hurtfully’she possesses the evil eye. Strange things do happen when she’s around: a child becomes ill, the previously unbesmirched fruit spoils, and an accident befalls the mailman, who had loved her as a child. Also back home after years away is Simon, a violinist, former bureaucrat, and current next-door neighbor of Marie-Santana. As the year progresses, the two are gradually drawn to each other. Along the way, though, both must confront their pasts, which appear oddly linked by a common theme, since a fair-skinned man once conned Marie-Santana into loving him and then embezzled her money, while Simon had a fair-colored brother who ran away from home. Once personal history has been properly acknowledged, love is duly allowed to conquer all. Awaiting a wedding feast, even the meddlesome villagers are forgiven. A story to be savored, and winner of the 1998 Milkweed Editions Fiction Prize.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1998
ISBN: 1-57131-019-3
Page count: 362pp
Publisher: Milkweed
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998