Out of India: Selected Stories

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Author William Morrow & Company $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-06382-5

In plain, unassuming prose that doesn't altogether conceal the tears and laughter that give it urgency, the story of many different Indias unfolds in these 15 tales. There is Durga, ""The Widow,'' who likes her husband better now that he is dead and has left her his fortune, which she vows, abortedly, never to let fall into the hands of his importuning relatives. There is the cabinet minister's wife, who, in ``Rose Petals,'' keeps failing to conform to the demands of officialdom in the face of the far more exciting companionship of Biju, the elegant elderly gentleman, never married, who visits her every day. ``Bombay'' tells of ``the Uncle,'' whose beloved niece marries a rich merchant, moves to his opulent home and, when the Uncle is so ill that he hasn't the strength to resist, packs his few rags and takes him to live with her in surroundings alien and abhorrent to him. All the stories, unrelated but focusing on the search for a quiet center that justifies disjointed and woebegone lives, are woven together in a glowing tapestry enriched by profound knowledge, humor and compassion. 25,000 first printing; $20,000 ad/promo. (May 16)