The secret to life, according to a recurring character in this sprawling tale, is "to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair." Set in 1975 in an unnamed Indian "city by the sea," which seems to bear a striking resemblance to Bombay, this tender novel follows the intermingled fortunes of a Parsi widow, a college student who is her boarder, and two Hindu tailors trying to make their way in the city. Each character is meticulously drawn, and the often harrowing background stories (including some murderous caste violence in the tailors' family) are interweaved through the main narrative, which finds the four thrown briefly, and eventually very happily, together in a tiny flat. All this is set against the background of Indira Gandhi's "emergency Raj," in which civil liberties were essentially suspended. It's all profoundly moving, a rare window into the cultural and religious maelstrom of India. One of the best things we've read on India, and a fine piece of literature. A Booker Prize finalist.
Author: Rohinton Mistry
NHA Staff Recommendation:
"A powerful novel that takes place as India is gaining its independence. It delves into the caste system and exposes the difficulties of living as a very poor person in this country. I found it to be very real and when traveling in India, I was able to observe some things that would have gone unnoticed if I had not read the book. It gave me a much deeper appreciation of the people of India." – Wendy Klausner
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