Whole lives come into focus in this rich and diverse collection, as Desai shines her luminous spotlight on private universes from India to Canada and New England, from Cornwall to Mexico. Her protagonists set forth on journeys and find themselves suddenly beyond the pale, or surprisingly back where they started. Caught up in cycles of hope and disappointment, their lives are ruled by the seasons, at the mercy of heat and dust, or straightjacketed by the conventions of hospitality, friendship and family. In the title story, a beloved dog, black as Satan, brings nothing but disaster. In another, a businessman away from home sees his own death. Elsewhere, old relationships stir up buried resentments, issues demand commitment, or escape. And in the final masterpiece, one of Delhi's girls of slender means finds a kind of joy and freedom in a strange rooftop community. Desai writes beautifully, with humour and delicacy, charm and compassion, about ordinary lives in a disconcerting world.
The nine stories in this collection from Desai (Fasting, Feasting) are served up with characteristic perspicuity, subtle humor and attention to the little hypocrisies of the middle class. Diverse settings and domestic dramas frame universal themes, often involving the complex relationship between an individual and her/his family and culture. In "Winterscape," Rakesh's "two mothers" fly to Canada from India to attend the birth of his first child. Rakesh, now "a husband, a Canadian" and fairly alienated from his past, has trouble explaining to his wife, Beth, the love and sympathy with which his mother gave him to her childless sister. "Tepoztlan Tomorrow" offers a familiar Desai scenario of "aging daughters taking care of their aged parents," and features a young man, studying in the States, back to visit his family in Mexico; Louis finds himself groundless, unable to regain footing in his past and unwilling to accept the encroaching future as exhibited in his rapidly transforming hometown. Especially vivid and rewarding are the stories set in India, illuminating the ways familial ties and various aspects of Indian culture can nourish or suffocate. In the title story, Diamond, a huge black dog, terrorizes the conservative suburb of Bharti Nagar, but is cherished by his owner, the "reputable government servant" Mr. Das, who lives vicariously through the spirited, unruly beast. Moyna, in "The Rooftop Dwellers," lives in a New Delhi "barsati" (a small room built atop a flat-roofed house), seeking independence from her family and traditional roles; amid a community of struggling young adults, she finds support in resisting the common social attitude of "fear and loathing for the single working woman." As always, Desai explores her subject with sensitivity while maintaining the perfect authorial distance, achieving a compassionate and subtle irony. 3-city author tour. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
May 19, 2000
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.