cover image Buddha's Orphans

Buddha's Orphans

Samrat Upadhyay, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.00 (433p) ISBN 9780618517503

This absorbing novel is as rich in its quiet moments of loneliness and tea making as it is powerful in its presentation of an ancient culture perpetuating its own misogyny. Over four generations, Kathmandu endures the arrival of Western hippies, the reign of a corrupt royal family, and violent citizen uprisings meant to topple government but instead obstructs the vital movements of daily life. In the midst, Nilu, a wealthy girl with an alcoholic mother, and Raja, an abandoned orphan, grow up, find, lose, and find one another again. Generations recur with inheritances they can't understand, but that drive the momentum of the tale where choices made from a forceful longing have the power to alter fate. Upadhyay's (Arresting God in Kathmandu) masterful prose shows increasing sophistication and a grasp of the sublime, and he is surprisingly effective in conveying the horrors and wonders of motherhood. Throughout, Upadhyay portrays the tenderness of love and the alienating, sometimes fatal effects on women living in a society that doesn't allow for unplanned pregnancies. By the end, Upadhyay is forgiven the few small coincidences that scaffold the plot because the story is so beautifully told. (July)