Sunday, September 19, 2021

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Burnt SugarBurnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just read the Booker nominee Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi in which the narrator describes her fraught love-hate relationship with her mother who is sliding into dementia, and retraces the mother's neglect of her daughter growing up in an ashram in Pune, and the lover the two shared after the daughter grew up. The girl's American-born husband, Dilip, "was handsome and tall in a way that let everyone know he'd grown up abroad. Baseball caps, good manners and years of consuming American dairy," struggles to accommodate her foibles, her inexplicable repetitive art, her relationships with her family. The writing is lively and interesting. Much attention is devoted to smells (the bakery, the smoking rickshaw engine, fried cumin and garlic, armpits, food (dal, pakoras, samosas, koftas), memories and anger, and time in the book is askew. I read it with interest, occasional amusement, and a longing to revisit India. The character of the daughter is not sympathetic, but she is not dull and her reactions and thoughts are insightful as she struggles to do her duty by her mother.
"The habit of waiting has already been instilled...deeply ingrained. I wonder if, when I'm old and frail and can see the shape of my end in front of me, I will still be waiting for the future to roll in."

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