four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
By: 
Kiran Desai
user_rating: 
0

A-InheritanceOfLossIn northern India, at the base of the Himalayas, retired judge Jerumbhai Patel is content to pass his days with his orphaned granddaughter Sai. Unbeknownst to her Anglophile custodian, Sai has fallen in love with her Nepalese science tutor Gyan. Soon, Nepalese immigrants throttle the tranquility of Kalimpong, protesting their treatment at the hands of wealthy Indians, and ideology destroys Sai’s love. Sai is forced to confront her own privilege, and the mountainous divide that towers above her town becomes a potent symbol of the effects of immigration, colonization, and young love.
Atlantic Monthly Press. 324 Pages. $24. ISBN: 0871139294

Chicago Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This story of exiles at home and abroad, of families broken and fixed, of love both bitter and bittersweet, is one of the most impressive novels in English of the past year, and I predict you’ll read it almost as Sai read her Brontë, with your heart in your chest, inside the narrative, and the narrative inside you." Alan Cheuse

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Her rich and often wry descriptions—of people, places, weather, seasons—have the depth and resonance of Dickens laced with rueful postmodern ambivalence. Her insights into human nature, rare for so young a writer, juggle timeless wisdom and 21st-century self doubt." Ann Harleman

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"It is a work full of color and comedy, even as it challenges all to face the same heart-wrenching questions that haunt the immigrant: Who am I? Where do I belong?" Marjorie Kehe

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With her subtle touch, Desai lays bare hypocrisy on either side of the social divide, stopping short of assigning blame but not shying away from cutting observation. Whether describing the arrogance of the assimilated or the entitlement of the insurgents, she confirms how equally myopic both contingents can be." Jenifer Berman

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This second novel is broader in scope, peopled with a more diverse set of characters and shimmering with honesty and humanity. … The writing style has a detached quality, leaving the reader feeling less than fully engaged with the characters." Bharti Kirchner

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"This novel raises timely questions about economic opportunity, globalization, self-identity, and immigrant rights. And as nationalist groups around the globe flex their muscles, the novel ponders whether a country is ‘hope, desire, or concept.’" Jack Reardon

Critical Summary

Maybe it’s in her genes: the daughter of Indian novelist Anita Desai, Kiran Desai skips past the sophomore doldrums with this assured second novel. The same characteristics that made her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, notable are here in spades: an "utterly fresh" (Boston Globe) narrative voice, jaw-dropping descriptive passages, and a mélange of vibrant, sympathetic characters. But critics praise her graduation to a wider field of inquiry. She’s forgiven the occasional lapse into didactics, especially concerning the Nepalese revolt. Reviewers concur with the Los Angeles Times that The Inheritance of Loss "amplifies a developing and formidable voice."