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Small Days and Nights: Book summary and reviews of Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi

Small Days and Nights

A Novel

by Tishani Doshi

Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi X
Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2020
    272 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

A captivating and clear-eyed story of two sisters caught in a moment of transformation, set against the vivid backdrop of modern India.

Escaping her failing marriage in the United States, Grace Marisola has returned to Pondicherry to cremate her mother. Once there, she receives an unexpected inheritance―a property on the isolated beaches south of Madras―and discovers a sister: Lucia, four years older, who has spent her life in a residential facility.

Settling into the pink house on its spit of wild beach, Grace builds a new and precarious life with Lucia, the village housekeeper Mallika, the drily witty Auntie Kavitha, and an ever-multiplying band of dogs, led by the golden Raja. In the lush wilderness of Paramankeni, with its vacant bus stops colonized by flying foxes, its temples shielded by canopies of teak and tamarind, where every dusk the fishermen line the beach smoking and mending their nets, Grace feels that she has come to the very end of the world. But her attempts to leave her old self behind prove first a struggle, then a strain, as she discovers the chaos, tenderness, fury, and bewilderment of life with Lucia.

In fierce, lyrical prose, Doshi presents an unflinching portrait of contemporary India, exploring the tensions between urban and rural life, modernity and tradition, duty and freedom. Luminous, funny, surprising, and heartbreaking, Small Days and Nights is a story of the ties that bind, the secrets we bury, and the sacrifices we make to forge lives that have meaning.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In dreamlike writing that overflows with emotion, Doshi investigates culture, caste, politics, and ethics, as Grace struggles to bring some semblance of meaning to her life. Sure to be popular with book clubs and readers who appreciate getting caught up in a work that transports them beyond borders." - Library Journal

"Doshi is excellent at conjuring atmosphere, particularly a sense of menace regarding the dangers that confront women in both rural and cosmopolitan India...This exploration of loneliness is a feat of lyricism." - Kirkus Reviews

"A shattering study of disaffection and belonging…[A] concise novel of staggering depth…[D]isturbing, deep and utterly extraordinary." - Bidisha, The Guardian (UK)

"Radiantly written…this superb novel from Doshi ranges over family secrets, trying to do the right thing, and the sheer contingency of life in all its richness and uncertainty." - Phil Baker, The Times (UK)

"Tishani Doshi brings all her skills as one of the world's best poets to this lovely, beguiling, brilliant novel." - Gary Shteyngart, best-selling author of Lake Success

"A beautiful gem of a book full of heartbreak and joy. A deep exploration of what it is to be within family and what it is to occupy your own skin and the ebb and flow between the two." - Nayomi Munaweera, author of What Lies Between Us

The information about Small Days and Nights shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Loved this sweet, melancholic novel
I love this type of book. Set in a far off locale, full of interesting tidbits of a different culture, and many interesting characters (and dogs). I could really visualize their life's unfolding on the beach near Madras. My only disappointment was that I couldn't visualize Lucia...I waited eagerly for more to be revealed about her; however, I was very pleased with the ever so flawed but tenuous Grace. She felt very real to me.

Highly recommended!

Irene H. (Saugerties, NY)

Small Days and Nights; Tishani Doshi
In her novel, Small Days and Nights, the poet-novelist, Tishani Doshi, invites us to join her bi-racial protagonist, Grace, as she negotiates a life marked by conflict, loss, and anger. The book begins with Grace, once an American wife with a career in that country, living unconventionally and unwillingly, with her sister, who has Down's syndrome, and a pack of dogs. Their lives in a crumbling complex set in the far south of India are integrated with political unrest and material disparity. They are both like and profoundly unlike their neighbors.

Grace is not a warm and fuzzy protagonist. It is the reader's task to discover both the reasons for her current status and the sources of her sense of emptiness. We are invited to think about, and either accept, or condemn, the ways in which Grace seeks happiness.

In almost brutally honest terms, Doshi describes the people in Grace's life, and the contrasting beauty and ugliness within Indian culture and society. Thoughtfully reading Doshi's text invites the reader to develop an appreciation for ambiguity in the character's life and our own. Her final chapter challenges us to ask what it means to be true to oneself.

This book is an excellent book club choice. It avoids cliches and gradually builds empathy for Grace, her sister, and their serially abused nation. I would describe it as a novel to be admired, rather than liked, but one which grows on you and is worth reading.

Margaret R. (Claremont, CA)

Small Days And Nights
Tishani Doshi is a poet and for me, Small Days and Nights was a an Odyssean poem trapped in a novel. The raw physicality and sensual passages throughout this book left me emotionally engaged, frustrated, and anxious. This is not an easy read and its intentional lack of straightforward chronological narrative makes it feel more dream-like than plot-driven. If the reader is not already familiar with structural elements such as Downs Syndrome, Indian politics and culture, life in the American south, and the streets and canals of Venice, there is much to try to figure out on your own. I would not read this book for pleasure but I would recommend it to a sophisticated reader who would like to take this journey.

Janice P. (South Woodstock, VT)

A Poet's Novel
Tishani Doshi is a poet. So it's not surprising that she brings a poet's craft to her first novel, one that unfolds in vignettes of vivid sensual detail and emotional resonance, and that tell a story in the way a lyric poem does— indirectly, through small moments drawn, seemingly randomly, from the near and distant past, and a present that quickly becomes past. We discover Grace Marisola's story—taking place across three continents and perhaps four decades—the way we uncover our own: moving forward through chronological time while dwelling simultaneously in different parts of the past, seemingly "small days and nights" that add up to a self, a life with potential meaning.

To recap Grace's story in narrative terms, we meet her at a time when she is trying to make sense of her failing marriage to an American, her return to her native TK after her mother's death, her untypical childhood there as the offspring of an Italian and an Indian, and the upheaval underway in India itself. Against this backdrop, she must piece together family secrets and redefine family to include a sister she never knew she had.

This is a rewarding read, but not an easy one, despite its shorter than average length. There's a lot to piece together, much implied and left to the reader's imagination, supplied with a wealth of rich and often symbolic details, running the gamut from gross to sublime. Doshani raises themes of individual and cultural identity, of freedom and obligation, on many levels, but true to a poet's vocation, she doesn't tell us what to conclude. She leaves us with Grace's sense of arrival at a point of departure — of hard-won answers, and new questions.

Joan P. (Owego, NY)

Thought Provoking Novel
I found Small Days and Nights an interesting book. Grace tells of her upbringing. Her mother and father had a strange relationship and a very big secret that Grace is faced with after the death of her mother. The author is a poet and I found the descriptions of the places in Grace's life beautiful and troubling. She speaks of the plastic filled waters of India and the murky, dark canals of Venice and the openess of the spaces and roads in America. A recurring theme is how alone Grace is. To paraphrase, Grace had an acute need for a witness to her life and a yearning for people in her life who shared her memories besides her parents. This book is so rich with characters, ideas and poetry, it deserves a second reading for me to truly understand all of it.

Linda W. (Summit, NJ)

Day by Day
Tishani Doshi is a very good writer. She provides insight and detail to life in India and the challenges of a bicultural marriage. Her framework for this book is to chronicle, as if in a journal the life and thoughts of Grace from the death of her mother to finding out she has a sister with Down's syndrome to the break up of her marriage and finally to a life not necessarily of contentment, but of resignation to moments of happiness.

This story is filled with nuggets of wisdom, insight and dreary ordinary that makes it read more like an epic poem than a work of fiction.

...18 more reader reviews

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More Information

Award-winning poet, dancer, and novelist Tishani Doshi lives in Tamil Nadu. Her debut novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and her writing has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, and elsewhere. Small Days and Nights was named an Irish Times Book of the Year 2019.
Visit her at tishanidoshi.com

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