Sunday, March 24, 2013

The God Of Small Things

"Change is one thing. Acceptance is another."
"That's what careless words do.
They make people love you a little less."
Arundhati Roy received The Booker Prize for her first and only novel. They still call it her debut novel and despite writing many other things since then, none were fictional or in the shape of a novel. It is also semi-autobiographical, it seems, and it is discussing the coming-of-age and growing up of two twins. 
The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family. Their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu, (who loves by night the man her children love by day), fled an abusive marriage to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), and their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt).
When Chacko's English ex-wife brings their daughter for a Christmas visit, the twins learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river....
The story jumps around back and forth in time and it is quite confusing at first before you get used to the time-jumping and nicknames within the Indian family. I am familiar with the Indian families and still sometimes it was difficult to follow who did what to whom and why. But once you get a grasp of the characters, the story is like a river. Flowing, floating, whooshing, running, twirling and twisting, running around a bend and over an obstacle. It pulls you deep within itself and you feel the horrors coming and despite not being able to stop them you long for it, you yearn to stop the craziness that you know will happen.

"It really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how.

And how much."

This is a story of a family. Of familiar breakdowns, of love and loss, of heartbreak and sadness, of naïvety and secrets, of leaving and being left, of favorism, of hate and grudge. It is a story of how small things turn people's lives and they (or we) don't even know it. The story and little stories within it tell how things have changed for these people. What led to the ultimate ending and how the horror of what happened in the end is something that you will not forget. It's the kind of book you could talk about for hours on end but only with those who have already read it. Why? Because it speaks of small things. That twist and turn the life. And a river runs through it. Like a real, liquid, unattainable story that you only fathom once you're at the end of it and you're watching it, as it descends into a waterfall.
"If you're happy in a dream, does that count?"

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