The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai

Book 12

Man Booker Prize winner that has been on my shelf for years.  I would call this a family epic that illustrates the incredibly complicated relationship India has with the Western world.

There’s a retired judge who lives in the boonies with his orphaned teenage granddaughter, a cook and his dog.  There are also some tutors that come and go, and the cook hasa son trying to scrape out a living in New York.  The book opens with the robbery of the home – focal point of tension that the rest of the novel explains and puts into context.

One scene that hit me was at the U.S. embassy with all of the Indians trying to get visas and the State Department employees trying to determine whether they are trying to use a travel visa to emigrate.  These were some desperate, desperate people.  By the end of the novel, the question is whether the people that “made it” are any better off than if they had stayed home.

The novel brushes the surface of the class system in India, which I have never really understood.  Also, the backdrop of revolution was very present, but I don’t know the history well enough for it to have meant anything to me.  I would like to have seen more detail, but that really wasn’t the point of this story.

Thematically, I really liked this book and the writing was engaging.  But there wasn’t a whole lot to like in the characters and the plot fizzled out at the end.  Very American of me.

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