Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Anonymous. You rock!

"Some novels pull you in with the first sentence. Cheryl Snell's debut novel, Shiva's Arms, does just that as she takes the reader across oceans, decades, and cultural transformations reflected in the characters: Ramesh, a Hindu scholar, his American wife Alice, and Amma, a traditional matriarch named for the god of Creation and Destruction. Amma struggles with the culture clash her son has brought into her life, and each of the characters suffer as they attempt to come together in a new way.

The symbolism and themes are smoothly incorporated into the storyline, so that the focus is always on the characters.We become engaged completely with this family; they are real, imperfect flesh and blood people, with dreams and ambitions and beliefs that often run counter to one another, and they are capable of great cruelty as well as love.

With her mastery of both narrative and poetic devices, Snell uses Hindu myths to great advantage, festivals and food to reveal national character. But it is her lyrical language that conveys the poignancy of divided loyalties so effectively. Shiva's Arms gives us hope for our global future, and Amma, Alice, and Ramesh will continue to linger in my imagination for a long time to come."

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