By Ekta R. Garg
May 2, 2012
Rated: Bookmark it!
After losing her husband in a dramatic accident, a young widow decides she must move close to the mountains he loved and trekked. She thinks she has found the ideal hideout, a small village in the folds of the Himalayas, and her life regains some sense of balance. But when her landlord’s nephew comes back to town after a long absence, the young widow suddenly realizes that with him has come the upheaval she so desperately wanted to escape.
Anuradha Roy’s second novel, The Folded Earth, compels readers to stay up late at night and try to finish “just one more chapter.” Roy’s exquisite prose will draw readers in one word at a time, one sentence at a time, and her eloquence offers rich characterizations and deep landscape descriptions. Her story will not disappoint either and goes toe to toe with Roy’s usage of language, giving readers what they so deserve: a fantastic book to enjoy many times over.
The protagonist, Maya, marries the love of her life, crossing all of the boundaries set by society, religion, and caste. Her father instantly disowns her, but Maya and her husband, Michael, begin their life together in Hyderabad (in the south of India) in bliss. As a trekker, Michael often goes on long expeditions to the statuesque mountains sitting on India’s northern border, and when he doesn’t come home from his final, fatal, expedition Maya knows she must go there herself to be as close to Michael’s spirit as possible.
She relocates to the small village of Ranikhet, and slowly she makes a place for herself with the long-time residents. Her landlord, Diwan Sahib, remembers India before the Partition and Independence; Ama, her next-door tenant, alternates between raising her granddaughter, Charu, and raising eyebrows with the local gossip. Even Miss Wilson, the principal of St. Hilda’s School, where Maya’s repeated failures as a teacher exasperate the strict principal—Maya even begins to consider Miss Wilson a permanent fixture in her life after spending six years in her new home.
One day Diwan Sahib’s nephew, Veer, returns after an extended absence from Ranikhet, and Maya finds herself drawn to him. Her feelings unnerve her—her devotion to Michael’s memory has not allowed her to consider allowing someone else into her life, until now. And Ama’s constant reminders of the suspect qualities of Veer’s personality, while an annoyance to Maya, still, nevertheless, nibble at the edges of her trust.
In addition to Veer’s appearance, politics quickly becomes an integral part of Ranikhet’s daily goings-on when a local boy decides to run for office to represent the region in the country’s capital, New Delhi. But as the politicians move in and try to bully the villagers to make drastic changes to their beloved mountain hamlet, as Veer’s sudden disappearances and reappearances bit by tiny bit cause Maya’s trust to erode, the story winds down to a surprise ending that will make readers eyes pop and then make them cheer.
Roy’s The Folded Earth will make readers feel like they’re sinking into a hot bath at the end of a long day. Bit by bit as the boiling water envelopes, its soothing properties ease away the day’s tension; one slides in deeper with a contented sigh, and slowly all of the day’s elements float away in the steam. Likewise, The Folded Earth will coax readers away from their own lives and into the lives of Maya and the residents of Ranikhet, and Roy’s fantastic ending contains all the shock value of rising from the now-cooled bath and into the stark space next to the tub.
I wholeheartedly recommend The Folded Earth for anyone who likes to read anything. It is the kind of book to read, recommend to others, and then read again.
What the ratings mean:
Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection. It’s definitely worth it!
Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Bypass it–Free time is precious. Don’t spend it on this book!