Lavanya Karthik: Lavanya is from Mumbai, India and is a licensed
architect and consultant in environmental management. She lives in
Mumbai with her husband and six-year old daughter. She loves reading
and enjoys a diverse range of authors across genres.
Author: Sujata Rayers
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Here, at last, is an Asian Indian character in Western fiction as far from the stereotype as it is possible to be. Mira Shankar is grossly overweight, obsessed with fashion, and an underachiever in a family of college professors and med students. Forget acing the Spelling Bee or sailing early into Harvard – Mira can barely graduate high school. When she is raped during a school dance, she is betrayed by both her family and the school authorities, and her health and legal rights ignored.
Things look up when she meets idealistic, Jheri-curled Andy and they begin a life together, with a truly oddball collection of friends and neighbors. Mira embarks on a program of healthy eating and self esteem building, and finds a fulfilling job in fashion. Too good to be true, you say? You betcha for , shortly after, Andy is killed and Mira finds herself alone again. She starts afresh, with a foster son and divorced sister in tow, begins sessions with a kindly therapist (who clearly doesn’t take his own advice)and slowly works her way to fulfillment, forgiveness and happiness.
‘Mira..’ is chock full of interesting, eccentric characters, and the author seems to have enjoyed herself making their individual quirks come to life. In fact, purely in terms of its cast of characters, ‘Mira..’ reminded me of a John Irving novel – ordinary people in everyday environments going through the most extraordinary experiences and emerging the stronger for it . Rayers’ humor is often dark and the ordeals she puts her characters through, taxing; nonetheless, she tells her story with empathy. Despite the trauma Mira has suffered – rape, parental abandonment - she holds on to her essential goodness, and is hard to dislike, even if you are sometimes dismayed at her submissiveness at crucial points in the story.
The sheer vibrancy of the cast – and there are some gems here - demanded a longer book; at 170 pages, it feels rushed and leaves you a little dissatisfied. At times, the book reads too much like a dieting guide. It is also weighed down by a rather monotonous narrative; Mira’s story demanded a livelier voice . I was, however, impressed with the sudden change in writing style in the chapter describing Andy’s death – the detached tone and parallels drawn with a children’s story made for a chilling read.
A feel-good book about second- and third - chances, family and finding one’s path.
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