As It Was Written

Sujatha Hampton, Author
Sujatha Hampton, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $25.99 (370p) ISBN 978-0-312-58412-2
Reviewed on: 12/21/2009
Release date: 02/01/2010

Hampton's debut novel is a spectacular, colorful, and way too busy mess. There is the gigantic Mr. Nair and his five daughters (only two of whom figure prominently), plus their tiny allergy-plagued mother who hasn't opened a window for 20 years. There is Mr. Nair's sister, Gita, her married lover and his ex-wife, two medical students—one being a love interest for one of the daughters—a lecherous professor, a single mother landlord and her two children, an adorable trio of bakers, assorted in-laws and relatives and the town crazy who swoops in at the end to provide a totally unsatisfactory conclusion. There's also a book within a book. The narrative is lovely, vibrant, expansive, and well-paced, and the characters are complex, but there are simply too many of them and too much going on with no anchor to keep things from running amok—and run amok they do. Hampton has a lot of promise and a great handle on most of the author's toolbox; hopefully, next time out, there'll be a sturdier hand in reigning it in. (Feb.)

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