In the Convent of Little Flowers
by Indu Sundaresan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I cannot believe I am giving a book of short stories four stars. I am most definitely NOT a short story person. But these won me over.
I ended up with this book because I ordered it on Paperbackswap, and somehow it escaped my attention that it was a collection of short stories. So once I owned it, I had to read it! It was my first book by Indian-born Seattle author Indu Sundaresan, but it will definitely not be my last.
The stories--most of them about the lives of Indian women--were heartbreakingly sad and poignant, but beautifully written.
Concerning the Indian traditions of suttee, the banishment of widows, arranged marriage, women falling from grace for sex or pregnancy out of marriage, intercaste dating or marriage, parents giving up their lives and rights to their male children, etc., Sundaresan manages to evoke the beauty and flavor of India while also exposing its underbelly and the extremely difficult conditions women face there every single day.
As those of you who read my book reviews know, I am fascinated with India at the same time as I am horrified by its treatment of women. Mike and I got engaged there, and I have some fond memories of our month there, but at the same time I do not have a desire to return any time soon.
Reading stories like these makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in the U.S. and have the opportunities and freedom I have as a woman. They also make me wonder how I would react to the cultural restrictions and boundaries, not to mention the violence and abuse, imposed on women in countries like India...would I, like Sundaresan, have the courage to leave my country and make my home in a place where I could more freely express myself? Or would I not be the same spirited, opinionated woman I am today if I were born into a culture like that?
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