cover image Aerogrammes and Other Stories

Aerogrammes and Other Stories

Tania James. Knopf, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-0-307-26891-4

Although most of the characters in these nine immaculately crafted short stories share a common native land—Kerala in southern India—their range of emotions is brilliantly diverse. Yet they all feel adrift in an alien culture, no matter how much time they have spent in the West. James (Atlas of Unknowns) understands the nuances of emotional displacement. In the title story, retired grocer Hari Panicker has a “hollow feeling... sitting in the fading light of a foreign room,” the retirement home where his son has consigned him. James displays a comic bent in “The Scriptological Review,” where a nerdy American teenager, Vijay, mourns his dead father by making his mother’s life miserable with his obsessive focus on producing a journal of handwriting analysis. There is poignancy in Vijay’s deep-seated fear of the culture that drove his father to suicide. In the moving “Light & Luminous” a middle-aged teacher of Indian classical dance is forced to include her ungainly, dark-skinned grandniece in a talent contest, leading her to discover that she shares the girl’s misery. Only the final story, “Girl Marries Ghost,” in which a grieving young American widow enters a lottery to marry a dead man, misses the target that the other stories unerringly hit. Agent: Nicole Aragi, the Aragi Agency. (May 15)