The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - Arundhati RoyA sweeping saga of India, mostly in contemporary times (1984-2014). Part of the book is set in Delhi but much takes place in Kashmir (topical given today’s political events). Ms. Roy’s writing is exceptional; impeccable detail means that the reader can feel the sensations of noise, heat, pollution and misery, violence and ethnic cleansing. Her vivid writing captures the chaotic complexity of India. And the main characters are women.

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau BadamiA sweeping story of a multi-generational Indian family near Madras: a mean-spirited mother of two, a spinster daughter aged 42 and the older brother Sripathi who is the major figure in this story. Sripathi is married with a stay-at-home son and an estranged daughter living in Vancouver. Sripathi is angry is angry with life: his job; corruption in India; but his major disappointment is his family relationships, in particular his daughter who defied him by rejecting an arranged marriage. All live in a single big house that is decaying literally. A very important element in this book is dealing with change, their declining standard of living. When their estranged daughter is killed in a traffic accident, the 7-year-old grand-daughter (who they have never met) comes to live with them, a fourth generation, forcing them to cope (poorly) with even more change. This is a very fine book about India.

Note: this book is also from the CBC list mentioned above. And later was in the 2016 CBC Canada Reads list)

The Ever After Of Ashwin Rao – Padma Viswanathan

The Ever After Of Ashwin Rao - Padma ViswanathanA Giller finalist and another WordFest author.  This is a sweeping story from the early 1980s in India to the 1985 Air India bombing, and the aftermath leading to the trial in 2004. A search for coping mechanisms for grief produces a very strong story with distinctive characters, both in India but mainly in Canada.