AS SWEET AS HONEY.
By Indira Ganesan.
Knopf, 274 pages, $25.95, hardcover.
The fictitious island of Pi is home to a family of Brahmins who live in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The narrator, Mina, is one of the interesting persons living in her grandmother’s home, while both her parents are studying for their doctorates in the U.S. The novel centers around Mina’s cousin, Metterling, who becomes a widow on her wedding day.
Those of us raised in an Anglo-Christian world will find our lives in marked contrast with that of her family as Metterling’s pregnancy becomes apparent after the funeral.
Sex before marriage, pregnancy and birthing rituals and religious observances are topics Metterling deals with, as well as the loving visits of her deceased husband, Archer, who is not quite ready to be reincarnated.
As if this were not enough, Archer’s English family is more involved with the islanders than it appears on the surface. Finally, one can voraciously feast with the family throughout the years as meals are cooked for celebrations. Metterling marries Archer after a short courtship, as he is passionately in love with her. They consummate the relationship before the wedding and Archer’s untimely death at his reception causes consternation in both families — his at a British gentleman dying so awkwardly, hers due to the question of spousal inheritance.
As Metterling’s pregnancy continues, Archer’s cousin, Simon, arrives to reassure her that Archer provided for her in his will and he falls in love with her, and marries her after Archer’s child is born. What a woman! They move to England and live a happy life with Oscar, Archer’s son.
During this time, Archer is still around, however. He appears from time to time to check on his son. The family is surprised, but accepts this and they talk with him until he is ready to begin another life. All of this makes for an interesting read, especially if you want to taste a little of the Indian culture.
However, reader, be warned. You may want to read this on a full stomach as the dishes prepared for celebrations sound delicious! This tale will make you want to go to your nearest bookstore and buy a cookbook. What the book lacks is more depth, in the characters and in the reasons for their actions. But if you like to savor tidbits, you may enjoy this book.
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