Publisher: Hachette India
Pub date: 1 Feb 2011
Maya has moved to a small remote town in the Himalayas, in an attempt to heal from her great loss and try to move on with her life. She teaches at the local school in the day and at night works on typing up the drafts of a book that her landlord Diwan Sahib is writing. The crotchety man is one of her few friends here. She also develops a bond with the young village girl Charu and her grandmother. Maya makes a new beginning among lush green forests and the majestic mountains. But when Diwan Sahib’s nephew comes to set up a trekking outfit from Ranikhet, Maya finds herself drawn to him despite herself. A man of many secrets, he also stirs up memories of a painful past.
I read Anuradha Roy’s debut novel An Atlas of Impossible Longing not too long ago. While I didn’t totally love it, I loved it enough to believe we had a new talented author on the scene. So when I heard that her second novel was out, I couldn’t wait to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. This second novel is a wonderfully written poignant story.
Roy’s description of Ranikhet is so familiar and could easily be any small hill station in India that still lives in the echoes of colonial rule. The town is filled with many eccentric characters, from the landlord, to the school principal to Charu’s simple-minded uncle.
Maya’s parents disowned her when she chose to marry Micheal, a Christian man. An avid trekker, Micheal dies one of his expeditions. Devastated, she moves far away from the home she had with him, to the mountains where she thinks she can be closer to him.
Living in this beautiful mountain town, Maya has the kind of life that we can almost be envious of. It is a simple life, but she is also lonely. Having cut herself off from her family, Maya has nothing anchoring her – this allows her to become more easily enmeshed in the lives of her neighbours. Diwan Sahib is a lovable old man, irritable and nasty as he can be sometimes. Maya also grows very fond of him and they forge a bond that in some ways replaces the Maya’s lost relationship with her parents.
This story could have remained a soft read, but Roy deftly infuses some gravitas to it. She has woven in some real events like the church burnings in Orissa and uses that to underscore the religious tension that spills over to Ranikhet. The political situation becomes a little tense when Hindu candidate stirs up trouble using the Christian school where Maya teaches. The story also deals with grand themes like life in a small town, political and religious unrest, single women in India, environment and so much more. Roy’s touch is subtle and her writing poetic.
The strong characters and plot make this a very poignant and memorable read, making it a worthy follower to An Atlas of Impossible Longing.
Highly recommended. Fans of literary fiction and Indian stories will enjoy The Folded Earth.
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