Set in the sensual richness of India, Shobhan Bantwal's gripping new novel asks: Where can a woman turn when her life's greatest blessing is seen as a curse?
It's a girl! For most young couples, news of their unborn child's gender brings joyful anticipation. Not so for Isha Tilak and her husband, Nikhil. They already have a beloved daughter, but Nikhil's parents, hard-wired to favor male children above all, coldly reject little Priya at every turn. Vain and selfish, they see female grandchildren as burdens, and would just as soon never meet the one growing in Isha's belly. Even the obstetrician agrees, going so far as to suggest the unthinkable, throwing Nikhil into a rage--and changing Isha's life forever...
When Nikhil is discovered brutally murdered, Isha is convinced it had something to do with his reaction to the doctor's hideous "solution" to their problem. Alone, grief-stricken, and relentlessly oppressed by in-laws who believe her baby is a bad omen, Isha sets out on her own. Born into a privileged class, Isha doesn't know the first thing about fending for herself, but to protect her precious daughters, she will learn. And she will cling to the hope given to her by a strange old mystic: that her baby will arrive on the auspicious night of Kojagari Purnima, the full harvest moon, and be a gift from Lakshmi, the goddess of well-being. Isha and her girls will need all the blessings they can get, for the greatest danger of all lies ahead...
Bantwal (The Dowry Bride) shifts her focus from arranged marriages to the high stakes parents place on producing a male heir in contemporary India in her middling sophomore outing. Isha Tilak and her husband, Nikhil, are counting on their second child to be a son. But when an ultrasound reveals she's carrying a girl, an illegal abortion is proposed, both by Nikhil's wealthy parents and by Isha's physician, Dr. Karnik. Nikhil staunchly refuses and soon turns up dead, and Isha can't help wondering if he may have been killed for not going along with the abortion. Unfortunately, the dialogue is often flat and didactic ( Did you know that a conservative estimate puts anywhere between eight and ten million girls as either aborted or killed in infancy in the last two decades?), and the narrative shifts too late from ponderous exposition to almost page-turning suspense as Isha tries to determine who was involved in Nikhil's murder. Less time on the soapbox and more time getting into the heads of the characters would have helped. (Sept.) ""
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
August 25, 2008
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