The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 2nd 2002 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Sripathi has never been a lucky man. Now ageing and disenchanted, struggling to keep his job, Sripathi lives in the crumbling ancestral house with his lonely spinster sister, embittered mother, and a wife and son he hardly knows anymore. His only joy is his talented, vibrant daughter Maya. But when Maya marries Alan, a fellow student at her American university, Sripathi angrily cuts her off, until he receives a phone call from Vancouver informing him that Maya and her husband have been killed in a car crash. All Sripathi is left with are his regrets and Maya’s seven-year-old daughter, Nandana. Confused and scared, little Nandana must move to India, and adjust to a life with the family she has never met before.
I really enjoyed this book, which was quite a long and detailed look at a family and how it copes with what life has thrown at them.
Sripathi lives with his wife, older unmarried sister, layabout son and incredibly cantankerous and annoying mother Ammaya. His daughter Maya left to study in Canada years before and despite being engaged to a local boy, ending up marrying a white man and having a child, leaving Sripathi to disown her.
But then he gets word that Maya and her husband have died and they are their granddaughter’s legal guardians, so Sripathi travels to Canada to bring the little girl Nandana back to India.
I assumed the book would be about the girl’s culture shock but the focus is much more on the wider family and their lives, and the effects the news and Nandana’s move to their home has on them. I liked the sister Putti who is desperate to escape her home but is basically kept there by her grandmother who rejects numerous suitors. Sripathi is bitter and his wife is full of anger but we watch their characters change and grow as the novel progresses.
This feels like quite an epic book and it drifts about at times but I loved the Indian setting and the descriptions of the smells and the foods, and I even liked the grumpy old woman who was a bit like my own nana with her funny sayings and superstitions, but a million times madder.
This is one of those novels that manages to be sad, sometimes funny and ultimately hopeful and I really loved it.
My rating: 9 out of 10