Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An Unlikely Goddess by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Title:  An Unlikely Goddess
Author:  Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Published:  October 2013
Page Count:  264
Genre:  Contemporary
Shelf:  Review
Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Winner of the SheWrites New Novelist competition 2011

Sita is the firstborn, but since she is a female child, her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son. From the start, Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her, but her irrepressible personality won’t be subdued. Born in India, she immigrants as a toddler to the U.S. with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother.

Sita shifts between the vastly different worlds of her WASP dominated school and her father’s insular traditional home. Her journey takes us beneath tales of successful middle class Indians who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s.

The gap between positive stereotypes of South Asian immigrants and the reality of Sita's family, who are struggling to stay above the poverty line is a relatively new theme for Indian literature in English.

Sita's struggles to be American and yet herself, take us deeper into understanding the dilemmas of first generation children, and how religion and culture define women.

My Review:

Intense and emotional. Those are the first two words that come to mind with respect to this exquisitely written novel.

I love how Rajakumar keeps this novel completely immersed in the culture, without trying to westernize the entire story to increase sales. Rather, she works clashing cultures and lifestyles into a single individual who has to reconcile them for herself. Rajakumar’s straightforward writing style contrasts with her intricate descriptions to create a very unique feel for the novel as a whole. She invokes empathy, sympathy, and censure in her audience while allowing them to journey along with the character.

The gradual character development in this novel coincides with the life of the main character. She becomes a very fully developed character by the end of this novel. I really enjoyed how this novel was completely female dominated, right down to character development. The female characters close to the main character are individually developed in detail. As a reader you get to know them quite well. In general, the character development for the male characters is much vaguer. It is as if they stay aloof from the main character, and thus from the audience. It definitely adds a unique element to the story.

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