The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Toss of a Lemon, by Padma Viswanathan

I loved this book, but if you are into suspense and tend to read thrillers, it is not for you. The Toss of a Lemon is a much more subtle book than any thriller, and it is, essentially, the story of three generations of a Brahmin family in India. It is beautiful, gentle, intimate, and quietly epic.

The main character, Sivakami, is married as a child and has two children before becoming a widow at age 18. Sivakami’s daughter Thangam marries an unpredictable man who makes her terribly unhappy and gets her pregnant 10 times over the course of 25 years. Sivakami’s son, Varium, is an odd child and a difficult man who disdains his mother’s dedication to Brahmin customs. Among those customs is the punishment meted out to a widow: she is not allowed to touch or be touched by another human being while the sun is up.

Yet despite this and other strictures, Sivakami influences her family and others. Her closeted gay servant, Muchami, becomes her best friend and ally. She raises Thangam’s children for the most part, and despite the lack of assertion we often associate with the term, she functions as the family matriarch. The story takes us from the late 1800s through the end of the British Raj without a typical history’s focus on the political. Rather, Viswanathan emphasizes the changes in family life wrought by the upheaval.

I strongly recommend this book.

In terms of animals, there were no animal characters. There is an early, lively scene involving monkeys and a bird (which we’re hoping gets away), a taxidermy mishap involving Thangam’s inept husband, cows, dogs, and assorted other incidental animals in the background. So this book is SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!

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July 3, 2010 - Posted by | beach book, Book Reviews, families, historical fiction | , , ,

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