The Hero's Walk

Anita Rau Badami, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $23.95 (359p) ISBN 978-1-56512-312-0
The flowering of young writers of Indian origin continues with Badami's deeply resonant debut novel, which places her in the ranks of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Akhil Sharma and Manil Suri. The scion of a once wealthy, now down-at-the-heels Brahmin family, Sripathi Rao lives in the crumbling family manse in a small city on the Bay of Bengal. At 57, Sripathi is ill-tempered, emotionally constipated and a domestic tyrant a man riding for a fall. He struggles at a mediocre job to support his dragon of a mother, unmarried but lovelorn 44-year-old sister, subservient wife and layabout son. It's the perfect setup for a domestic comedy, until fate intervenes with the sudden deaths of his daughter, Maya, and her husband, in Vancouver. Guilt-ridden for having refused to communicate with Maya because she humiliated him by marrying out of her caste and race, Sripathi brings his seven-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Nandana, back to India. Badami's portrait of a bereft and bewildered child is both restrained and heartrending; Nandana has remained mute since her parents died, believing that they will someday return. In his own way, Sripathi is also mute, unable to express his grief and longing for his dead daughter. This poignant motif is perfectly balanced by Badami's eye for the ridiculous and her witty, pointed depiction of the contradictions of Indian society. She also writes candidly about the woes of underdevelopment the ""stench of fish, human beings, diesel oil, food frying,"" poor drains, chaotic traffic and pervasive corruption. In the course of the narrative, everyone in Sripathi's family undergoes a life change, and in the moving denouement, reconciliation grows out of tragedy, and Sripathi understands ""the chanciness of existence, and the hope and the loss that always accompanied life."" A bestseller in Canada, where it was a Kiriyamaa Pacific Rim Book Award finalist, Badami's novel will delight those on the lookout for works by writers on the crest of the Indian wave. Author tour. (Apr. 27)
Reviewed on: 04/01/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 359 pages - 978-0-345-45092-0
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-0-676-97225-2
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-676-97360-0
Paperback - 359 pages - 978-0-7475-5711-1
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