The middle-class denizens of a Bombay apartment complex come to life in Umrigar's engaging debut, which tells the story of a half-dozen protagonists through the prism of a wedding hosted by respected lawyer Jimmy Kanga. Kanga's rise to glory is just one of several intriguing subplots. The novel begins with the story of Rusi and Coomi Bilimoria, a couple whose marriage becomes frayed when Rusi's business plans don't match his expectations and Coomi's mother-in-law turns out to be a live-in nightmare. Other interesting yarns include that of Dosamai, a bright young woman who, after her parents force her to marry down to ensure the future of her sisters, eventually turns into the local gossip. The neighborhood drunk, Adi Patel, also has a tale to tell involving a tragic interlude with the daughter of a laborer that effectively ruins his life, and the widow Tehmi Engineer takes an analogous road to ruin when her handsome husband, Cyrus, is killed in an explosion at a chemical plant. Umrigar is an accomplished, natural storyteller who remains an optimistic narrator despite all her grim plot twists, though she never softens the impact of the various tragedies on her characters. She also manages to work in a portrait of the decline of Bombay, delivering an impressive debut offering a glimpse into a cultural world—especially that of the Parsis, an ethnic minority—that most Westerners know only in its barest outlines. Regional author tour. (July)
Forecast:Despite the rather drab cover design, this title should find a modest audience among readers of literary fiction and fans of other Indian writers.
Release date: 07/01/2001