Secrets and lies are gradually revealed in this portrayal of a well-heeled Indian family living in Malaysia. The satisfyingly complex narrative flashes back and forward through three generations to keep you guessing until the end. Although this is a sad story, it's narrated in prose as rich and spicy as a really good curry with a good side serving of humour, the dialogue being a particular joy.
‘Really,’ Mrs Surgeon Daisy Jeganathan says, ‘you don’t know how lucky you are, Vasanthi. Your Uma, without opening her books also can get straight As. Our children no need to dream of Columbia University also. By now Uma must be packing already, isn’t it?’
Amma’s mouth is full. She chews and looks round the room, but none can decipher her expression.
‘Make sure she takes lots of warm clothes,’ Mrs. Rangaswamy says. ‘Even in September New York is like Antarctica already.’
‘And better you fill up her suitcase with cream crackers and Maggi mee and that type of thing,’ says Mrs. Chua, ‘and one or two cases of Brand’s Essence of Chicken. She’s going into premed, isn’t it? Where she’ll have time to cook? Brand’s Essence of Chicken is very good, just open and drink and you get all your nutrition.’
‘Pre-med, yah, that’s right!’ Mrs. Bhardwaj says. ‘I almost forgot, man! It’s like a fairy tale only. Premed in America, Ivy League some more – where our children can –‘
‘Actually,’ says Amma, setting her plate down on her pressed-together knees, ‘my great daughter thinks she wants to be an actress.’
The Ladies twitter. Mrs Surgeon Daisy Jeganathan throws her head back and grants this joke her late-night, bridge-party laugh, the laugh she generally saves for the tall tales of her husband’s tipsy friends.