The Journey

Indira Ganesan, Author Beacon Press (MA) $13 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8070-8353-6
In a nation of immigrants, the story of arrival and adjustment is a perennial fictional favorite. Fewer writers address going home again, but Ganesan's delicately constructed first novel originally published 11 years ago by Knopf and now out of print, but to be reissued (after Inheritance) just in time to take a turn under the Indian fiction spotlight does. It follows 19-year-old Renu Krishnan, her mother and her 15-year-old sister, Manx, as they return to their family home on fictional Prospero's Island, or Pi, in the Bay of Bengal. It is 1980, and the Krishnans, who have been living on Long Island for the past nine years, are returning to Pi because Renu's cousin Rajesh has drowned. Conceived on the same day as Renu (even born on the same day), Rajesh is considered to be her twin; according to village lore, if he dies by water, she should die by fire. In Ganesan's scheme, Rajesh also seems to be Renu's doppelg nger: he remained at home while she and her family settled in the United States, and his death marking the death of her childhood and perhaps even the death of the Hindi in her provokes a crisis in Renu's life. Other characters also make journeys: Renu's mother, her aunt, her sister, her grandfather. Ganesan relates the complex stories of several striking characters and examines many of the ironies of cross-cultural life in the United States and especially back home on Pi. But this complexity comes at a cost. Despite her turmoil, Renu remains obscure, difficult to picture and understand, as do many of the other characters. Readers who need to know a character thoroughly to love a book will find this novel frustrating, but those interested in a subtle sometimes touching, sometimes comedic tale of our nomadic, crossbred lives will be happy it is now available in paperback. (Apr. 13)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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