cover image NAMING MAYA


Uma Krishnaswami, . . FSG, $16 (178pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35485-5

In this sensitively wrought novel, Maya, the daughter of divorced Indian parents, leaves her home in New Jersey to accompany her mother to Chennai, where they must sell Maya's late grandfather's house. After their arrival in India, Maya's mother stays busy making arrangements with a realtor, and Maya mulls over the upheavals in her life. She misses her best friend and she longs for her father, who has moved to Texas. On the other hand, she enjoys the company of her sympathetic cousin Sumati and "Mami," the old family cook and housekeeper. However, when Mami's memory starts to fail and she begins acting strangely, Maya feels another sharp pang of loss. Out shopping one day, Maya witnesses how "pandemonium erupts" when the hem of a woman's sari gets caught in an escalator. The image of the panicked woman becomes a metaphor for Maya, who also feels pulled in different directions. Maya is torn between two cultures, two parents who have drifted apart and even two names (her mother's side of the family chose the name Maya, but her father's relatives always called her Preeta). While vivifying the sights of India and offering a glimpse of the country's history, Krishnaswami (Monsoon ) creates a heartfelt story. Maya's release of the past is convincingly reluctant; her tentative steps toward the future movingly portrayed. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)