When Nela Sambashivan visits her native India to research the mathematics of collectives, she is drawn instead into the lives of ten year old Ranu, the cunning motel-keeper who exploits her, and an unscrupulous Uncle who believes that everything is for sale. Nela’s transformation from abstract thinker to selfless guardian begins when she rescues Ranu from a forced marriage, and when the child fails to thrive, Nela must confront her miscalculations about sacrifice, survival, and the mysterious alchemy of love.
Cheryl gives an overview of the book:
As long as the man kept his sunglasses on, Nela could assume he was asleep. This was a man who knew how to keep still, hands folded in his lap, his breathing even and slow. Maybe he was meditating, or praying. Perhaps he was afraid to fly, and intended to keep his eyes shut for the entire trip. She had had enough of talking to strangers.
Leaning back in her seat, Nela adjusted her sari, angling her body toward him for a better view. She examined him like a bug under glass. Tall, long, lanky. Strong legs. Sinewy. Ropy arms not developed through hours at a gym, but through actual work. The long dark hair looked as if he cut it himself. The rough hands and grimy fingernails told the truth.
But she was not getting the full gestalt. She needed to see his eyes for that. Twenty years before, when she first arrived in England from India, she was not so particular. She would leap to the same conclusion no matter how much or little of a man’s face she could see—he was ugly. It had taken a few months before she could parse the expressiveness in non-Asian faces. Now, it was Indian men whose faces she found hard to judge.
Nela had seen the man beside her an hour earlier, at the metal detector. .As she removed her heavy gold necklace, bracelets and rings for the x-ray machine, passengers craned their necks to get a better look at the deep color of twenty-four karat gold. At home, she kept her jewelry in a locked drawer, away from jealous eyes--- but her Benares silk sari had to be set off with the appropriate jewels for the trip, for Amma’s sake. Nothing less would have satisfied her.
The man who would become her seatmate had stood directly behind her, and pulled his body to its full height to block the view of the curious. She relaxed a little, grateful for his shadow as her treasure passed on the conveyer belt to an officer’s hands.
She knew she stood out in a crowd, especially in that get-up, so it insulted her that the man had not opened his eyes to acknowledge her. Goose and gander, the
My books include poetry and fiction. My first novel, Shiva's Arms, tells the story of an American woman who marries into a Hindu Brahmin family, and explores the themes of cultural identity and the meaning of family.
When I married into a Hindu Brahmin...