An epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.
Jaya, a New York journalist, is unprepared for the heartbreak of three miscarriages and the subsequent breakdown of her marriage. Feeling like she’s lost everything, she doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. When her Mother receives a letter from her brother informing her that their estranged Father in India is dying and wants to see her before his death, Jaya is shocked that she refuses to both discuss the letter or go to see her Father. Feeling in need of answers about her Mother’s past and her own heritage Jaya decides to travel India herself and see her Grandfather.
When she arrives in India Jaya is enraptured by the sights, smells and sounds. She feels like she’s in a strange land but knows she is deeply rooted in this place too. Upon arriving at the house she meets Ravi, her Grandmother’s former servant and loyal friend. Though she was too late to meet her Grandfather before his death her quest for answers isn’t lost as Ravi agrees to tell her the story of why her Mother left India upon her marriage and never returned.
The story begins in the 1930s when her late Grandmother, Amisha, was a newly wedded 15-year-old girl during the British Occupation. Amisha was a pioneer who fought against things she felt were unjust in any way possible, often to her own detriment. This starts when she hires Ravi, an untouchable, as her servant. She knows this is against custom and it will incur the wrath of her overbearing mother in law, but she accepts the consequences and hires him anyway.
Amisha was a storyteller. She had always written stories and poems that she hid away, sure that no one would want to read them. She had always been desperate to learn and would steal her brothers textbooks and school herself by candlelight. Always wanting tolearn more, when an English school opened she hoped to become a student and learn English. This takes her on a path she never imagined and leads to choices she never envisioned having to make. It is the best time of her life and yet also the worst.
Hearing the story of her Grandmother has a huge impact on Jaya. Amisha was a woman who grappled to find herself while also staying true to what others expected of her, this makes Jaya question if she ever actually made any real decision in life. She’s had all this freedom, the kind of freedom her Grandmother could only dream of, yet she has pursued the established path before her with no real thought as to if that is what she truly wants. Hearing how her Grandmother was uncommonly brave in the decisions she made helps Jaya feel able to become braver herself and start dealing with the heartache of her losses and talking about what happened instead of keeping it all locked inside. Instead of escaping from her life and heartache, she finds she is now able to face things in a healthy way. She is also now able to understand why her Mother always seemed cold and distant and refused to talk about her past. She is also able to give her the story of the mother she lost and the love she never knew growing up.
This was a beautiful and profoundly touching story that was wonderfully written. I thought the choice to write in the first person during the story, as well as the present day, was a skillful one. It immersed you in Amisha’s mind and world, helping you understood the decisions she made and reasons for her actions, even when they might otherwise have seemed wrong. A magnificent, heartwarming book that I would highly recommend.