Awake When All the World Is Asleep: Stories

Shree Ghatage, Author
Shree Ghatage, Author House of Anansi Press $13.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-88784-602-1
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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The inescapable nature of fate and the demands and obligations of tradition are sensitively explored in the 11 linked stories in Ghatage's debut collection. Set in Bombay in the mid-1970s and featuring the inhabitants of an apartment complex, Ghatage's stories describe from an insider's perspective the intricate framework of family convention that sustains Indian society. Bookending the collection are two tales about Shaila, a medical student studying in Canada. Although Shaila is often lonely in Winnipeg, sensing a ""heaven-earth difference between the East and the West,"" she has also come to value ""the freedom and independence that allowed me to exercise my will without the interference of tradition and mores."" She returns to Bombay for her father's 60th birthday to discover that her parents are making plans for her marriage and for her to join her father's practice. Characters like Gopa in ""I Am the Bougainvillea"" and Sarla, in the title story, examine their feelings of emptiness and the indifference of their husbands toward them even as they accept their marital roles. Death, too, is a constant preoccupation. Hiru, in the eponymous story, mourns four wives who die in quick succession, and Roopa, in ""Our Family,"" explains how her family's dead come back to life. In delicate and searching prose, Ghatage uncovers the secret longings, disappointments and fears of women and men who are part of the modern world, yet still bound to centuries-old customs and behavior. (Aug.)
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