Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita and Nishta, 4 women all around 50 years old, bound by old friendship and idealism from their college days in India’s version of the 1970s. Memories, love, politics, loyalty, love, death and dying, love. – yup – it’s a love story – lots of different kinds of love in the world – and these 4 women end up with very different lives.
The magical group based on radical politics which they had in college days split up for some reason and decades lapse before Armaiti , who by now is divorced and lives in the US is stricken with some kind of terminal cancer in her brain – she is refusing treatment. Her daughter, upset at her but wanting to help, thinks to get her old friends from India back together. So they work to make that happen. Nishta is hard to find, she’d married a Muslim man, been disowned by her family and changed her first name to Zoha. The main problem is how Nishta’s abusive situation with a radical Muslim husband came to be and how to get her out of it for a time – or for longer?
I’m not terribly happy with this book – it can get annoying. On the one hand it seems contrived to show the different situations of women from terminal illness and divorce to inter-faith difficulties including abuse, and let’s not forget homosexuality. The one woman who seems to be in a “normal” relationship doesn’t seem to be particularly happy there and is rather outspoken in her political ideas. Secrets and disloyalty and guilt fester in virtually all parties and children mirror the difficulties of their parents as well as bring up old memories.
There is some guilt involved with a bruise Armaiti got on her head during a demonstration in the old days – a demonstration in which a couple of the young friends got arrested and one escaped.
The book is rather interesting on a couple levels – times change as young people experience more and more of life they don’t, or can’t, usually stay as they were in their idealistic youth. The other level is the imagined inner workings of a Muslim man’s mind.
As to the literary components, the structure is good, alternating between the 4 women and the Muslim husband and it moves easily. The infrequent metaphors and tropes are okay but generally somewhat clumsy. The difficult thing is that a whole LOT of this is told in passive voice – the memories are very important but all narrated from the current situation of the character involved.
But when the memories stop and the action begins there’s a certain amount of page-turner to the story – the reader really wants to know if the women will get to America and how. The su
Bottom line – it’s okay – almost good.