Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai

Summary: Taking place in India and America, Inheritance of Loss covers the stories of the spiteful Judge, trained in England; his granddaughter Sai; his cook, saving money for his son; the cook's son as he struggles in America, and other characters amid unrest in their town in India.

Musings: Like a number of other books I've read on India, Inheritance of Loss discusses the pull many Indians feel between their home country, England, and America, and the many different positive and negative feelings associated with each country. This novel not only covers poverty in India, but it also includes the struggle of immigrant poverty in America, whereas other books I'd read (such as Interpreter of Maladies) concerned professional Indians now living in America.

In the Institute I'm participating in this summer, our director has discussed the findings of Terry Gilligan, who did work with some of the most violent offenders in jail. Gilligan found that the common denominator among these men was shame. It was intense shame that created the impetus for the men to be violent. This idea is especially present in Desai's novel, particularly in the Judge. His simultaneous shame of his culture and his shame over the treatment of his culture by whites creates intense anger in him, which most potently manifests itself in violence against his wife.

The book is not particularly uplifting, but it does end with a moment of joy between a separated father and son. Desai writes lyrically, and the small chapters create intense moments of feeling.

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