Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet

Kashmira Sheth, Author . Hyperion $15.99 (250p) ISBN 978-0-7868-3857-8

Sheth's (Blue Jasmine ) novel set in Mumbai offers readers a fascinating glimpse of modern Indian culture. While her parents work hard to find a suitable husband for their eldest daughter, 16-year-old narrator Jeeta begins to have doubts about the fixed marriages that are commonplace in her caste. Her objections grow stronger during her last year of high school when she befriends new student Sarina, the daughter of liberal-minded parents, and finds herself attracted to Sarina's cousin, Neel, another free thinker. Hoping to someday become a lawyer, Jeeta works harder at her studies and begins secretly meeting Neel, even though "Mummy absolutely forbids us to talk to boys," she confides to Sarina. This coming-of-age story brings to life the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of India, and incorporates the dark beauty of the rarely-seen koyal bird and the sweet flavor of mango to symbolize qualities that Jeeta embodies. The author emphasizes the restrictions of social mores, but also acknowledges that traditional marriages, arranged by parents, do not always lead to misery. Although Jeeta's second-oldest sister ends up in an abusive marriage, her oldest sister is happy with her husband; at one point Sarina suggests to Jeeta that fixed dates aren't always bad ("Isn't it nice to meet someone that your parents already know about? Isn't it good that they know the family well too?"). Eloquent and insightful, this book invites introspection and may lead to lively discussions about the pros and cons of honoring and breaking tradition. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 05/01/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-7868-3858-5
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-7867-5465-6
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