Book Review: Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai

Unfortunately, I could not make it to the Book Club meet for this month. I was running around like a headless chicken trying to put together logistical requirements for the Summit Seeker’s Hike the next day (16th October).

What was also unfortunate, was that the book did not catch on to many readers, including myself. This was my second attempt at “Inheritance of Loss” and I doubt if I even went another chapter forward from where I had left the book a couple of years ago.  And as an avid reader, you should know, there is nothing worse than leaving a book unfinished.

The Inheritance of Loss delves into the lives of  several characters in India in the 1980’s. The Characters come from various backgrounds, based on India’s classic class system (The Upper Bhramins and the Lower untouchables).

The book basically explores the dreams of each character, and they all happen to have one common dream – to get out of Kalimpong and migrate to the United States of America.

Kalimpong is a town (city?) located in the Northern Part of India, closer to Darjeeling. The story is centered around Sai, a seventeen-year-old girl living with her grandfather, who is a judge. The Judge carries his own baggage of a failed marriage (I think he was forced to leave his wife due to the caste system), and takes charge of his granddaughter after his daughter and her husband die in an accident.

Sai is under the pupilage of a young professor, Gyan, and the two soon develop a budding romance, under the watchful eye of the Judge’s Cook. The Cook has a Son, who is in America, by unlawful means, and through the book we get to read about how the life of a “vegetarian” illegal immigrant can be. Then there are the “sisters” who seem to be just sitting around waiting for a miracle to happen.

Although there are two main story strands in the novel – one about the people in Kalimpong and the other about Biju in America, the novel is very talkative, and has to much narrative. The details and any charachers can make it somewhat difficult to focus on the story, especially when you have not attached yourself to a character and their story from the very beginning of the novel.

Although coming from an “Indian”background and having visited India and understood the caste system, the novel made some basic sense to me. I was lost on the multitude of characters and stories to catch up on and hence lost interest in the reading.

For those who are not aware of the caste system or the traditions of a typical Indian culture, the importance of “chai” and the relevance of being a “woman” in the Indian Culture, you will find yourself dealing with too much.

And so, based on this anomalous selection, I have to say that it was a bad choice, and I am finally going to let this book rest in peace.

Thank you!




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