Fifteen-year-old Maya is disgruntled when her mother impels her to visit India for the summer to reacquaint herself with her extended Indian family. Over the course of three months, Maya learns why a rift has always existed between her mother and herself, an understanding that allows her to bridge that gap. Maya also comes to realize that her home -- her motherland -- can be anywhere.
In this quiet but engaging debut novel, an American teenager spends the summer with her relatives in southern India and gains new insight into her past, her family and her heritage. Born in Kerala, Maya spent the first four years of her life there, cared for mainly by her grandmother, Ammamma, until she was sent to live with her parents in New York. At 15, with her parents' marriage undergoing a rough patch, she is sent back to India to stay with her Aunt Reema and Uncle Sanjay, their 10-year-old daughter, Brindha, and Ammamma at their house in the tea hills above Coimbatore. It's been years since Maya came to visit, and this time she is keenly aware of cultural differences: the different spheres of men and women and the persistence of the caste system. She feels stifled by the attentions of Ammamma and resentful of the time she must spend with the old woman. When Maya suffers an accident while most of the family is away, she and Ammamma grow closer, and Maya learns a hidden family fact. But only when Ammamma falls illDand the entire family gathers, including Maya's parents from New YorkDdoes Maya begin to comprehend more deeply the complexities of relationships. This coming-of-age tale is dense with cultural explanations, including a wedged-in minor story line about the guerrilla Tamil Tigers. The writing style is more prosaic than lyrical, and the detail robs the prose of liveliness in places, but Maya's voice is consistent and convincing. Less ambitious and not as sophisticated as other recent works by writers with roots in India, the book can piggyback on the current boom in all things Indian. Agent, Emma Sweeney at Harold Ober Assoc. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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April 30, 2002
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