cover image The Kashmir Shawl

The Kashmir Shawl

Rosie Thomas. Overlook, $26.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4683-0246-2

Thomas (Lovers & Newcomers), best known as a romance author, weaves a love mystery in her latest work that’s light on plot, but heavy on rich characters and scenery. While cleaning out her deceased father’s house, Mair Ellis discovers an old shawl that belonged to her grandmother, along with a curious lock of hair. Mair, a single woman who has floated through life, is moved to find out more about the shawl, the hair, and her grandmother Nerys, who once lived as a Christian missionary in India. She travels to Kashmir, where Nerys’s story unravels in extensive flashbacks, as her then young grandmother’s loves, pain, and enduring friendships take center stage. The premise of an old shawl triggering such an extensive journey is a weak construct and advances the story only at a molasses pace. Moreover, Mair never fully reaches her potential as an interesting protagonist. Though Thomas falls short in providing a present-day storyline, she makes up for it with the compelling, scandalous tale of Nerys in 1940s India, set against the dynamic backdrop of Kashmir. Agent: Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Jan.)