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“[Viswanathan's] narrative, refreshingly, is free of anachronism, and she has a pleasing way of engaging the reader’s senses….a piece with the recent works of Vikram Seth, and reminiscent at times of García Márquez—altogether a pleasure.” –Starred Kirkus Review
The Toss of a Lemon
By Padma Viswanathan
Inspired by her family history, PADMA VISWANATHAN brings us deep inside the private lives of a Brahmin family, illuminating an India we’ve never before seen in her debut novel THE TOSS OF A LEMON (Harcourt, September 8, 2008).
At the novel’s heart is Sivakami, married at ten, widowed at eighteen, left with two children. According to the dictates of her caste, she must wear widow’s whites and shave her head. From dawn to dusk, she is not allowed to contaminate herself with human touch, not even to comfort her small children. She is forbidden to remarry, and in the next sixty years she ventures outside her family compound only three times. She dutifully follows custom, except for one act of rebellion: she moves back to her dead husband’s house and village to raise her son and daughter. That decision sets the course for her children’s and grandchildren’s lives, twisting their fates in fascinating and unbearable ways.
“Would you tell me about our family history,” Padma asked her grandmother, a question it turned out the older woman had been waiting for. Padma says, “She told a story I’d never heard: of her own grandmother, married as a child and widowed before she was out of her teens; of that grandmother’s son, childless and embittered; and her daughter, my grandmother’s mother, victimized by her marriage.”
Padma transcribed this story – and traveled to India to do more research. She learned details that her grandmother had omitted, investigated the socio-political context of the events of that period, and studied the movements and incidents that deeply affected her widowed great-great-grandmother. She transformed the story into fiction, making tactile a forgotten world and revealing a vanished way of life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PADMA VISWANATHAN is a fiction writer, playwright, and journalist. She was awarded first place in the 2006 Boston Review Short Story Contest. She lives with the poet and translator Geoffrey Brock and their children in Fayetteville, Arkansas. For more information, visit: www.padmaviswanathan.com
Pub Date: September 8, 2008; Price: $26.00, cloth; Pages: 640; Trim: 6 x 9; ISBN: 978-0-15-101533-7
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