The Cauliflower

Nicola Barker. Holt, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62779-719-1
Barker's (Darkmans) antic, irreverent historical novel examines the life of real-life spiritual leader Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886). The book takes a nonchronological approach to biography, jumping from point to point and leaving the reader to hang on for dear life. Gradually, however, an image of the man begins to emerge, in all his contradictory glory. Though he's seen from several points of view, the central one is that of his harried nephew Hridayram, who dedicates himself, not entirely happily, to ensuring the survival of a "delicate flower" of a man who falls almost daily into ecstatic trances, suffers extreme flatulence when exposed to "that most fateful of vegetables, the cauliflower," and only maintains his position at the temple devoted to the worship of "Black Mother" Kali through the indulgence of wealthy patron Mathur Baba. Barker lightens the mood further with passages from the point of view of a bird flying through the compound and a list of "Twelve slightly impertinent questions about Ma Kali" such as "Why is her hair such a dreadful mess?" Beneath the jaunty surface, the novel explores important questions about the nature of religious experience. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/23/2016
Release date: 08/09/2016
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-62779-720-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5047-2890-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-5047-2889-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-5047-2891-1
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