A Kitchen in the Corner of the House

Ambai, trans. from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström. Archipelago, $20 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-939810-44-1
The women in Ambai’s captivating and frequently moving collection navigate family relationships and historical dramas with grace. In “Wheelchair” and “The Calf that Frolicked in the Hall,” set in the 1970s, young Indian women begin to study and work only to find that their revolutionary ideals are at odds with the retrograde realities of their personal lives. Yet tradition can be a source of renewal and strength, as in the excellent “Parasakti and Others in a Plastic Box,” in which the indomitable Amma travels from India to the U.S. to visit her daughter, Bharati, after Bharati’s divorce: Amma “isn’t just an individual, she’s an institution.” Several stories, including the nostalgic “In the Forest, a Deer” and the brief “Yellow Fish,” deal with the sorrows of women without children, while others address the challenges of those struggling for control within their relationships, such as the talented musician in “Wrestling.” All of these are united by an ultimate insistence on their dignity: “Can I keep from changing, just for the sake of your illusions?” Ambai uses epistolary exchanges, tales from the Ramayana, and impressionistic sketches to track whole generations of families, as well as to describe the compressions and elisions of memory. Readers will be impressed by the variety of these stories and invested in the characters’ lives. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 08/15/2019
Release date: 09/17/2019
Genre: Fiction
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