cover image Cracking India

Cracking India

Bapsi Sidhwa. Milkweed Editions, $18.95 (289pp) ISBN 978-0-915943-51-7

The narrator of Sidwha's ( The Bride ) timely novel about the violent 1947 partition of India is the extremely observant Lenny Sethi, whose family belongs to the Parsee community in Lahore. As a child, a polio victim and a member of a minority, she is the perfect witness (though somewhat precocious) to the historic upheaval. Sidwha tempers Lenny's hyper-awareness, however, by capturing the whole range of her fears and joys as her innocence becomes another casualty of the violence among Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus. At one point Lenny declares: ``Lying doesn't become me. I can't get away with the littlest thing.'' Persuasive, this statement reinforces earlier comments she lets slip about herself which display this artless candor: ``the manipulative power of my limp''; ``I place a hypocritical arm protectively round her shoulders.'' Lenny's honesty is compelling, and the reader, like many in the story, cannot help but trust her. She is alternately thrilled and frightened by the events she dutifully records, and so, in the end, is the reader. (Sept.)