Seeking Fortune Elsewhere
Journalist Bhanoo’s stunning debut collection spotlights women who navigate comfortable but often stifling cultural traditions while pursuing new-world promises. In the O. Henry Prize–winning “Malliga Homes,” a recent widow’s daughter insists her mother move into a retirement facility in Tamil Nadu. The narrator’s daughter, Kamala, left India years earlier for college in Atlanta, and Kamala’s increasingly infrequent visits sadden and anger the narrator. In a perfectly apt metaphor for families caught between staying and going, the narrator pauses at dusk to admire a set of oleander shrubs: “Some of the flowers are stuck on one side while others, by sheer luck, fall to the other.” In “No. 16 Model House Road,” wife Latha and husband Muthu live in a house in Bangalore that Muthu’s deceased aunt had left to him. A developer wants to demolish the house for a high rise, and Muthu wants to sell it in order to travel, but Latha sees the house as “a memory box of her life.” Defying tradition, she stands firm in her opposition to Muthu with a “winning feeling” when, in signing a contract to remodel the house, her hand is “steady and sure.” In these and other stories, Bhanoo finds novel ways for her protagonists to cope with adversity. Growing apart from the past, rather than crushing their spirit and individuality, brings them freedom and hope for the future. This introduces a great new talent. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (Mar.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the character Muthu's name.