This time, still in Mumbai, Aravind Adiga tackles the great Indian passion that is cricket. Selection Day focuses on two talented brothers and their rival and friend who, unlike them, comes from a privileged background. The story also stars their obsessed father, who has trouble relinquishing his overbearing iron grip on his sons to their coach, a love interest, and multiple intermediaries in the cricket world, all expecting a little black money from the deals.
There are some wonderful observations of sibling rivalry, the seven kinds of Jain truths, and how decisions that are good for the family may not be so good for the individual — but too many pages describing the second day of cricket matches with 256 runs did me in.
The Other One Percent: Indians in America presents a detailed analysis of people of Indian origin who either immigrated to the US or who are the descendants of immigrants — and who constitute just 1% of the population, doubling its percentage in the past 20 years thanks to a massive influx linked to hiring of skilled engineers in the high-tech industry. The authors highlight the striking differences in education, origin, and socio-economic level between the older and newer immigrants and especially investigates the remarkable number of entrepreneurs among the more recent immigrants. Fascinating, whether you live in one of the clusters of Indian immigration (like Silicon Valley) or not.
Sleeping on Jupiter stars a young woman whose family was killed in an unnamed civil war and who was rescued in an ashram where the guru systematically abused her and other girls. Adopted overseas, she returns to the city where she was raised to confront the past. Traveling on the same train are three elderly friends who are going there to worship. The descriptions of the friends, their concerns about each other (one is clearly going senile) and their children, and their fractured adventures are well-rendered, if banal. The travails of the young woman are heart-rending but somehow distant, and sadly familiar as well. Save your reading time for something else.
Don’t Let Him Know is the melancholic story of an Indian-American family that started with a bad match between a gay man and his unsuspecting bride, who herself has a secret. So they shuffle along, making the best of their lives together without ever revealing the secrets. The story is told by their son and bounces between India, Illinois, and Northern California, with tender moments and funny ones, too. It’s not as depressing as the premise may indicate.
Gandhi Before India is an exhaustingly long book (almost 700 pages) that tells the lie of Gandhi before he was famous. We see him in his youth, trying to put together the funds quires to study law in the UK. We see him treating his wife quite poorly, moving between India and South Africa with little regard to her preferences. We see him callous towards his children, who are also pushed back and forth and apparently not worth much of his time or attention. And all in all, it’s a rather unremarkable life. Volume II should be more exciting, but I’m not sure I will have the fortitude to read it…
The Story Hour is an undemanding story about a psychologist who takes on a suicidal patient and most carelessly ends up erasing all appropriate distance between her and her charge, bringing about many improvements in the patient’s life but bad choices and bad consequences for the psychologist.
The patient’s forced marriage in India is sadly cliched — but the patient herself is well drawn and inspiring, whether she is learning to drive or starting her own business. Still, the story barely rises above comfort reading (you know, like comfort food).