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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Someone Else's Garden by Dipika Rai

Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition
Genre: Fiction
Paperback, 400 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 90/100

From the Tour homepage:

The eldest of seven children, born low-caste and female in rural India, Mamta is abused and rejected by a father who can see no reason to “water someone else’s garden” until a husband is found for her. Seeking escape in matrimony, Mamta begins her wedded life with hope—but is soon forced to flee her village and the horrors of her arranged marriage to the bustle of a small city. Saved from becoming one of the nameless and faceless millions of rejected humanity by the salvation of sublime love, Mamta struggles to find a precarious state of acceptance and make peace with her past.

Powerfully affecting and uplifting, set against a vivid and colorful background of Eastern life, Dipika Rai’s Someone Else’s Garden transcends geographical divides and cultural chasms to brilliantly expose the commonality of the human condition, compelling us to seek answers within ourselves to humanity’s eternal questions: Is life random? Do we have a destiny?

My Thoughts:

This book is so much more than Mamta's story.  In the telling of Mamta's story, Rai also relates stories about people I assume are commonly found in India, those who are the poorest of the poor, and those who have a little money and use it to support villages through loans and indentured servitude.  Sounds brutal doesn't it?  It is, and these themes make this book a difficult read.  Which is why I haven't finished it yet.  I will finish this book but it is going to take me much longer than I thought.  I can only read this difficult story tiny pieces at a time.  The emotions of sadness and helplessness I experience while reading this story are so strong...I wish I could help all of these characters. Very few books make me feel this way, and I believe I have to see this story to the end.  I have to know what happens to Mamta, and the rest of the people in the story.

I have gotten up to page 127, and here are my thoughts so far about Someone Else's Garden:
  • Women are treated very harshly in this story, especially poor women.  Women are basically nothing but trouble and good only for cooking, cleaning, and birthing sins.  I don't judge though.  This is the culture the reader is in.  It is not right, but the women are strong enough to find a way to survive.  How would one change an entire country's culture anyway?  Food for thought.
  • The men in the small village of Gopalpur are just as abused and shell shocked by the life they live, as their women are.  There is nothing but indentured servitude, poor farming, and bandits to contend with.  How could a man make something of himself in this environment?  No wonder why they take their misery out on their wives.  Not saying it's right, but it is what is.
  • The majority of the poeple in this story can not read or write.  I should be shocked but I am not.  That is troublesome to me.
  • Singh Sahib, the zaminder, the richest man, in the village is just as unhappy as the villagers indebted to him are.  All that money and no happiness.
  • In all of this despair there are still those who have a positive outlook, like Lokend and Prem.  They take life as it comes, do what they must for family, and survive as best they can.  You can always make the best of your situation instead of wallowing in sadness and fear.
That's all I have so far.  I have skimmed ahead a bit, and what I saw is just shocking, but again in some respects I am not surprised.  Just saddened and hoepful that these characters will find their way.  I will keep you posted.

It should probably go without saying that Rai's writing is superb, becuase how else could a writer evoke such strong empotions from me?  I feel as though I am a fly on the wall of the mud hut that Mamta lives in.  I can feel the helplessness, sadness, and acceptance of these characters, and I am disturbed by it all.  My only recourse is to finish this story, no matter how long it takes.  This is a definite freezer book! (Thanks Trish)

For more information about the author, please visit her website:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for my review copy.