In a fiction debut to rival The God of Small Things, Padma Viswanathan gives us a richly detailed and intimate vision of an India weve never seen.
Inspired by her family history, Padma Viswanathan brings us deep inside the private lives of a Brahmin family as the subcontinent moves through sixty years of intense social and political change. At the novels heart is Sivakami, a captivating girl-child married at ten to an astrologer and village healer who is drawn to her despite his horoscope, which foretells an early death depending on how the stars align when their children are born. All is safe with their daughters birth, but their second child, a son named Vairum, fulfills the prophecy: by eighteen, the child bride Sivakami is a widow with two young children.
According to the dictates of her caste, her head is shaved and she must don the widows white sari. From dawn to dusk, she is not allowed to contaminate herself with human touch, not even to comfort her small children. She dutifully follows custom, except for one act of rebellion: she insists on a secular education for her troubled son. While her choice ensures that Vairum fulfills his promise in a modernizing India, it also sets Sivakami on a collision course with him. Vairum, fatherless in childhood, childless as an adult, rejects the caste identity that is his mothers mainstay, twisting their fates in fascinating and unbearable ways.
The Toss of a Lemon is heartbreaking and exhilarating, profoundly exotic and yet utterly recognizable in evoking the tensions that change brings to every familys doorstep. It is also the debut of a major new voice in world fiction.
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"Viswanathan is especially adept at unobtrusively explaining foreign customs and world views to Westerners while wholly respecting the power and significance they hold for practitioners." - Publishers Weekly.
"Starred Review. Of a piece with the recent works of Vikram Seth, and reminiscent at times of Garcia Marquez - altogether a pleasure." - Kirkus Reviews.
"Starred Review. Gender rules, class relations, and the political castes of late 19th- and early to mid-20th-century India are well presented, making this an important work of historical fiction. Highly recommended for all collections." - Library Journal.
"The Toss of a Lemon is a captivating novel that in relating the story of one Indian woman and her family tells the story of a changing society. Precisely and deftly written, constantly interesting, morally serious yet sympathetic -- I challenge any reader to start reading this book and give up on it. It joins the company of the great novels on India." - Yann Martel.
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Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright, and journalist. She was awarded first place in the 2006 Boston Review Short Story Contest. She lives with the poet and translator Geoffrey Brock and their children in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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