This book did not unfold as I expected. I expected a dreamy, touchy-feely type of book. Instead, the author has a wonderfully sly sense of humor that kept me laughing. Part one starts off with the Narrator imperiously deciding within the first two paragraphs to change the character's name from Mary (after the Virgin Mary) to Evita because, unlike the Virgin Mary, Mary has unholy and uncharitable thoughts. Part two starts out with this fantastic, funny paragraph
"In a bid to take responsibility and control of my destiny, I had to sack the narrator, a cold and callous affair that only a brave fighting warrior could do… So, the narrator, with the knowledge that she is redundant safely withheld from her, is probably still sitting at her desk waiting to continue the story, hoping that the writer's block will come to an end."
There are four main parts to the book. Part one is in the Narrator's voice and describes the first character, Evita. It also introduces the symbol of dreams, an elusive African Dancer. Evita impulsively quits her job and takes a journey to follow her dream. Part two is in Evita's voice. She discusses her journey to follow her dream but also touches on her past family interactions with her adoptive mother, Sheila and adoptive father, Bali. The book jumps around a little bit; in the first half of the book it was a little difficult to concentrate and fully get involved in Evita's story. The author jumps directly into Evita's story in the beginning and I spent some of my time trying to figure out where the story was going and why it was going in that particular direction.
The book, in my opinion, shines during Part Three and Part Four.
Part Three tells Sheila's story starting as a wild child with dreams and passions. Sheila discusses honestly and poignantly her dreams and desires for her future (to travel, to study, to write, to fight for women's rights) and how they were put aside for duty and obligation (marriage to Dr. Bali). She takes on the responsibility for her lost dreams and desires and candidly admits to being accountable for the paths that her life takes - the slow disintegration of her marriage, the bitter, empty friendships continued through habit. The loss of her child, stillborn, creates a chasm between herself and her husband. The chasm is exacerbated when Sheila accidentally learns of her husband's previous wife and child both of whom died during childbirth. The silences, the inability to communicate drive Sheila and Bali further apart until they live together but separate lives. Evita, whose real name it turns out is Molu (you learn to just flow with the name changes and event changes), comes into Sheila's life as a young girl whose parents were tragically killed. Sheila describes the maternal desires to be do the best for her and her internal struggle between letting/helping Molu fly with her dreams or to keep Molu's feet firmly planted in the ground so that she isn't hurt. She initially feels that "to let the spirit grow uncontrollably is to send it to a difficult place where the unexpected boundaries of reality are too painful. I thought it would be best to set her in the discipline and the sanctity of culture that would keep her safe. It is the common ground of conformity and security - what has always been." It isn't until much later that she realizes her power to let Molu fly free and try to achieve her goals, realizing that she can not keep her safe from the fear and disappointment that is part of human life. It is at that moment that she also sets herself free to start following her own dreams.
Part Four is in Bali's voice. He is Sheila's husband and Molu's (nee Evita, nee Mary) adoptive father. His story starts with his childhood in South West India. He speaks a little about his dreams and his passions. Mostly he discusses his life (much of which is discussed in Evita and Sheila's narrations). He only sees the African Dancer (the symbol of dreams) twice -- once before running away with his beloved first wife and second, near the end of his narration. He has a different perspective on events that occurred and there are surprises along the way as he divulges information about the family structure and interaction.
The ending of this book was a little pat - but I think that was the narrator's intention. The belief that one should follow his/her dreams to fruition is the main theme running through the book and it is fitting that Evita, Sheila and Bali's dreams come true.
Although there is repetition in the book, it served to enhance the story rather than detract from it. Each character's point of view enveils a side of the story, causing the reader to reinterpret and reanalyze what was previously read. The character's narrative jump from subject matter to subject matter with some of the chapters being a mere page long. Yet somehow they interconnect and create a smooth rich storyline. While Gypsy Masala has a simple theme (follow your dreams), the characters and their stories are layered and complex and come alive through her writing.
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