The narrator of Manil Suri's second novel, The Age of Shiva, is Meera, a young woman in post-independence India caught somewhere between tradition and modernity. At 17, she ends up in what to outsiders appears to be a "love marriage," but might be better defined as a "mistake marriage." Educated by her publisher father, Meena is trapped between the patriarchal traditions of her country and, ironically, the need to rebel against her seemingly modern father. Stifled by this patriarchy and her loveless marriage, Meena pours all of her energy and love into her son, Ashvin. Of course Oedipal overtones ensue—or perhaps in this case, Ganesh-Shiva-Parvati overtones ensue. Suri has written the scenes between mother and son in the second person, which is perhaps a little disarmingly up close and personal, especially in the opening scene in which Suri focuses on the eroticism of nursing. Somehow the scene doesn't quite ring true, but perhaps that's because I'm a pansy who gets squeamish at the sexualization of breastfeeding. One of the criticisms of the book has been that it's not much more than an Indian soap opera. But let's be honest: Everyone could use a little Bollywood.
Thu., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., 2008
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