What Cheryl Snell does with Shiva’s Arms is quite captivating and inspirational. This is more than a book about the forced marriage of two estranged cultures, each one forced to coexist with the other despite their differences in customs and belief systems. It is about love and acceptance; it is about the need to belong and feel part of something that is bigger than you. It is the hunger that drives us to be seen and understood by those that share our paths in life. This is the narrative thread that embroiders itself around the story line of this book. Amma Shiva is a small and forceful Indian woman who holds on to her family and traditions with severity, with pride, and loyalty. Alice is a softer version of her — but just as fierce to defend her home, her love for Ramesh and their son, Sam. There is an intensely emotional mother-daughter narrative at play in Shiva‘s Arms, in which mother and daughter need to see one another not just as “mother” and “daughter,” but as women — two separate and independent entities sharing the same goal — the fulfillment of one’s son and the happiness of the other’s husband. There is absolute calm and redemption when each one succeeds in the mutual acceptance they both secretly seek. Because of the impassioned loyalty that resides within, each woman is able to push through the muck and mire of difference and possessiveness that governs their relationship to discover a braver, more forgiving and accepting version of herself. It is definitely highly recommended for your list of 2011 reading — the kind that lulls you towards self-enlightenment and acceptance. And if you have an affinity for Indian dishes, the back pages of the book are filled with delicacies discussed within the story line. Good reading, everyone!