Summary and book reviews of Tamarind Woman by Anita Rau Badami

Tamarind Woman

by Anita Rau Badami

Tamarind Woman
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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 266 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2002, 266 pages

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Book Summary

Set in India's railway colonies, this is a wise and compassionate novel about family, memory, and the traditions that tear us apart and bring us together.

When Anita Rau Badami made her U.S. debut last year with her second novel, The Hero's Walk, reviewers compared her deft and lush book to the works of Michael Ondaatje, R. K. Narayan, Naguib Mafouz, and Jhumpa Lahiri. It was hailed by Washington Post Book World ("fascinating . . . engrossing"), People Weekly ("resonant"), and Salon.com ("compelling"), among others.

Now we're pleased to announce the U.S. publication of her first novel, Tamarind Woman. Set in India's railway colonies, Tamarind Woman tells the story of two generations of women. Kamini, an overachiever, has moved to Canada to begin her graduate studies. Her mother, Saroja, nicknamed Tamarind Woman due to her sour tongue, is bitter because of her loveless marriage and her thwarted ambition to become a doctor.

When Kamini receives a postcard from her mother saying that she has sold their home and is traveling through India by train, both are plunged into the past to confront their dreams and losses. On her long railroad journey, Saroja tells the passengers on her train the story of her life. And from Canada, in between phone calls to her mother and postcards received from her mother's trip, Kamini reflects on her past. As we learn about their respective histories, from girlhood through maturity, we see the loss and love, the jealousy and joy, that has filled their lives.

Tamarind Woman is a wise and compassionate novel about family, memory, and the traditions that tear us apart and bring us together.

CHAPTER 1

I called my mother every Sunday from the silence of my basement apartment, reluctant to tell her how I yearned to get away from this freezing cold city where even the traffic sounds were muffled by the snow.

"Well, who asked you to go?" Ma would have demanded. "Did somebody tie your hands behind your back and say 'Go-go to that Calgary North Pole place'?"

So instead I said, "Ma, there are mountains in the distance, all covered with snow. I can see them gleaming like silver cones in the sunlight when I go outside my apartment."

"You sound like a travel brochure," said Ma. "I hope you wear that sweater your Aunty Lalli knit for you, you catch cold so easily."

"These mountains are almost as tall as the Eastern Ghats. Do you remember that trip with Dadda in his inspection saloon?"

"The Western Ghats."

"We never went up the Western Ghats, Ma. You are talking about the Eastern Ghats."

"Don't tell me what I am talking about," snapped Ma...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Before commencing the story itself, Badami provides this definition of the tamarind tree: "Folklore has it that the tamarind tree is the home of spirits that do not let anything under the tree survive. Accordingly, travelers are advised not to sleep in its shade. The tamarind tree is never used for auspicious ceremonies, as its fruit is sour. It is believed that the ceremony will turn sour and thus become fruitless and lose all meaning. "How did this definition color your reading of the story? Is Saroja the only "Tamarind Woman" in the story? What about Kamini? Amma?

  2. In their first exchange of the novel, Kamini complains to her mother that "you are inventing memories." Were ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Library Journal - Rebecca Stuhr

Although set primarily in India, this portrait of a mother and daughter transcends geographical limitations.... This thoughtful work is recommended for all public and academic fiction collections.

Publishers Weekly

She might have trimmed away some of the many smaller stories to make room for the central drama, but that is a small complaint for a first novel that reveals so much talent.

Kirkus Reviews

Beautifully composed, but a journey into the past more notable for the travel than the destination.

Booklist - Micahel Spinella

Badami's brilliant and beautiful novel captures life in India--the musicality of the English spoken, the interactions with servants, the smells of rotting fruit in the market, the sweltering sun, and the constant moving about of a railway family.

Reader Reviews

Murli Nair

Tamarind Woman
A bittersweet novel just like India and what I found appealing was that though the central characters are women it is not a feminist diatribe against men but more of women and men as flesh and blood with their own frailties and strengths I think it ...   Read More

javeria



A very nice and interesting book, Anita has made all the characters very lively and the shifts in narrative focus has made the story and the realtionship of a mother and daughter even more clear.The journey of life, tragic experiences, women's role ...   Read More

MD. MUJAHED ALI

i AM DEEPLY IMPRESSED BY READING MS. ANITA BADAMI's AUTO BIOGRAPHY & THE HER VISION ABOUT LIFE. PLEASE TRY TO WRITE A BOOK TO AVOID SUCH A RILIGION BASED KILLINGS, WHICH IS GOING ON IN INDIA. GOD WILL SURELY REWARD FOR YOUR EFFORTS TO BRING SOCIETY ...   Read More

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