In her first book, Mohanraj, born in Sri Lanka but a longtime U.S. resident, presents a series of interconnected short stories covering four generations of two families throughout five decades. The collection begins with "Ocean Bright and Wide," set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1939. When Thani goes to talk with the Irish nun who is supervising his daughters' education, the nun tries to convince him to send his youngest, Shanthi, for further education, with Oxford as a goal, to show the world "what astonishing heights your people are capable of." As Thani interjects, it is as if Shanthi were "a trained monkey, a performing dog." That encounter sets the tone for the other tales of trying to maintain a cultural heritage, of running from it to mainstream European/America culture, and of moving back and forth between the two. Always, the stories are about sex and food -- the dominant forces that identify a character with one culture or another. Some are brutal, while others are more touching. The book isn't a continuous tale of these families but offers glimpses of different members often greatly separated in time and space. Mohanraj offers readers great insights into her characters and has left plenty of material to be mined in further works. Recommended, especially for South Asian academic collections.It fascinates me, how different the approaches are in the different reviews. The reviewers (and their audiences) clearly care about very different aspects of the book. I'm very pleased about this being recommended for S. Asian academic collections. :-)
-- Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib., for Library Journal
Though technically, I don't really think you can call this my first book.