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By way of linked stories, in which characters appear and reappear, a deeply sensual and erotic story explores the mysterious depths of desire within Indian culture as seen through the eyes of Indian and Indian-American women and girls. A first novel. Original. Tour. IP.
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The protagonist in this unconventional debut is India itself, alive and pulsating with all its wild contradictions and bewitching charms. Barely adhering to the confines of a novel, Mandava offers a number of largely autonomous plots linked by chance meetings and the hand of fate. Characters from two separate stories meet on a train in a third narrative strand; a character from one narrative benefits from the tragedy of a woman in another; the same cake is shared by a terrorist in one portion of the novel and a beggar girl in another. Beginning with Ravi, suffering from the mental anguish of his burn-scarred face, and of his attempts to woo the beautiful dancing girl Ana, the book swiftly picks up other lives along its propulsive way. Ravi, transformed, reemerges later as a holy man in a perceptive tale of a husband and wife, he a New Yorker, she an Indian-American on an awkward and revelatory vacation to her homeland. In perhaps the most distressing of the chapters, Navina, soon to enter into an arranged marriage with Ajay, a handsome doctor, is assaulted by the tailor of her wedding sari. In a rage at her ignorance of his love for her, the tailor splashes her face with acid. From this, a chain of loosely related events follows: We meet the young woman who is Ajay's second choice for a bride, who sees a move to America as a move to modernity; we see the deeply conflicted Ajay in New York with his mistress Joanna; and we follow Ajay as he briefly encounters the taxi driver Vyshna, whose own story follows. Like most of the characters here, Vyshna faces the often difficult or baffling events of life with fortitude and grace. Addictively interesting (and particularly sensitive to the status of women), the collective whole offers an absorbing glimpse into contemporary Indian life and its clash with encroaching Western culture. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Mandava's debut, a first novel cobbled together from connected stories, intends to represent the different elements of Indian culture. A cast of no less than 30 characters?most of whom live in southern India, though the scene shifts occasionally to New York City?experience murders, maimings, possible kidnappings, bondage, marriages (both arranged and not) as well as more mundane loves and losses. But these characters are too disconnected from each other; their stories are told in separate chapters, and the connections between the chapters are minimal. In "The Lorry Driver" (each chapter is titled), we are introduced to Ravi. Badly scarred in a fire that killed his mother, he becomes infatuated with a club dancer, Ana. The chapter ends with Ravi in crisis; he reappears 10 chapters later, having reinvented himself, but his presence is largely irrelevant to the story now being told. And the potentially most interesting element?that of his transformation?is never explained. Ajay and Veena are Indian-American cousins who appear in different chapters?Ajay as the fiance of a woman preparing for her arranged marriage in "Wedding" and, later, as a new husband in "The Doctor"; Veena as a wife vacationing with her American husband in India in "Amaravati Road" and "Paradise." Each of them experiences the conflicts born of hyphenated identity. Unfortunately, their stories, like the whole collection, are too fragmented. Mandava raises intriguing cultural issues, but, because her chapters are linked obliquely at best, the book offers few deeper explorations or dramatizations of these issues.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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