After her mother's death crossing the border from Pakistan to India during Partition, baby Pinky was taken in by her grandmother, Maji, the matriarch of the powerful Mittal family. Now thirteen-years-old, Pinky lives with her grandmother and her uncle's family in a bungalow on the Malabar Heights in Bombay. While she has never really been accepted by her uncle's family, she has always had Maji's love.
One day, as monsoons engulf the city, Pinky opens a mysteriously bolted door, unleashing the ghost of an infant who drowned shortly before Pinky's arrival and of the nursemaid in whose charge the child was. Three generations of the Mittal family must struggle to come to terms with their secrets amidst hidden shame, forbidden love, and a call for absolute sacrifice.
Agarwal's atmospheric if excessively detailed debut takes readers deep into the mysterious heart of Bombay in the 1960s. Thirteen-year-old Pinky Mittal lives with her obese, matriarchal grandmother, Maji; her alcoholic uncle, Jaginder; bitter aunt Savita; and three teenage male cousins. Taken in as an infant by her grandmother after her mother died, Pinky knows she's Maji's favorite, even if her aunt despises her. Driven by adolescent curiosity, Pinky unlocks a door in her family bungalow that has been bolted her entire life and unleashes the ghost of an infant girl and her midwife, sending her whole family into a tailspin. Surrounded by superstitions and spirituality, Pinky tries to unravel a past rife with pain and deceit as three generations of her formerly stalwart family crumble around her. This multigenerational family saga is rich with eccentric characters and period details, but Agarwal too often clogs the page with nonessential descriptions. (Apr.)
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March 31, 2010
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