cover image  A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness

A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness

Jai Chakrabarti. Knopf, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-65894-8

Finely wrought characters grapple with culture clash, marital strife, and the troubles of parenthood in Chakrabarti’s impressive collection (after the novel A Play for the End of the World). In the title story, wealthy Kolkata man Nikhil proposes to father a son with his secretly gay lover’s wife, but things don’t go quite as planned. The tile of “The Import” refers to the demeaning nickname Raj and his American wife Bethany use for the nanny sent by Raj’s mother from India, who stirs conflicted feelings in Raj. In “The Prodigal Son,” a New Yorker named Jonah, soon to be a father of two, impulsively sleeps with his guru’s son on a trip to India and makes a wild promise he can’t keep. In “A Mother’s Work,” Rani is hired by Indian families in New York City to impersonate their son’s mother and scare off white girlfriends. Chinmoy in “In the Bug Room” has dropped out of his graduate program in the States and returns home, where he’s soon embroiled in a battle of wills with his mother’s devoted, manipulative servant. Throughout, Chakrabarti builds complicated and intriguing emotional situations, and his disquieting, unresolved endings leave the atmosphere unspoiled. This is a satisfying, vibrant exploration of family and identity. (Feb.)