In the distinguished tradition of R. K. Narayan and Anita Desai, S. Shankar has written a keenly observed novel in which comic delicacy and rueful irony are beautifully balanced in a story placed against the vibrant backdrop of the New India, the world’s largest democracy, and a country in which the rigid dogmas of the past often clash with the impatient and dynamic innovations of the present.
Gopalakrishnan (Gopu to his family and friends), a 65-year-old retired civil servant, has recently and reluctantly returned home to the southern Indian village of Paavalampatti after a forty-year career in New Delhi. His father is dead, and his mother – aging and unwell – wants her son to take care of her in her dotage. His wife, Parvati, is none too happy to be back. Their only child, Suresh, has stayed behind in New Delhi to oversee a presumably successful construction business.
When Suresh unexpectedly comes home, ostensibly to commemorate Dilwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, the fractures that have long existed beneath the surface of the family are suddenly thrust into sharp relief, and Gopalakrishnan finds that he must act as patriarch under difficult circumstances.
S. Shankar has conjured a marvelous portrait of family and place. His touch is deft, his portrayals
of characters succinct and empathetic, his evocation of the tensions that roil the surface of the New India persuasive but never overstated, and his depiction of family universal.show more