Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee
Purchase from Amazon or Powell's
Synopsis from publisher:
When Jasmine is suddenly widowed at seventeen, she seems fated to a life of quiet isolation in the small Indian village where she was born. But the force of Jasmine's desires propels her explosively into a larger, more dangerous, and ultimately more life-giving world. In just a few years, Jasmine becomes Jane Ripplemeyer, happily pregnant by a middle-aged Iowa banker and the adoptive mother of a Vietnamese refugee.
Jasmine's metamorphosis, with its shocking upheavals and its slow evolutionary steps, illuminates the making of an American mind; but even more powerfully, her story depicts the shifting contours of an America being transformed by her and others like her — our new neighbors, friends, and lovers. In Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee has created a heroine as exotic and unexpected as the many worlds in which she lives.
Initially, I thought this was going to be another novel to put in my Sunday Shorts post of books that didn't really capture my imagination. However, when I realized I was still thinking about it several days later, I decided maybe it deserved a post of its own after all.
This is, upon first glance, a novel about the immigrant experience in America. Jasmine, and her adopted son, Du, both experience the ups and downs of navigating a new world. The story jumps around in time a bit, so it can be confusing until you are able to figure out exactly what the timeline is. Jasmine's observations about the strange and difficult ways of Americans are funny and pointed, often uncomfortably observant about the life her new country leads:
"In America, nothing lasts. I can say that now and it doesn't shock me, but I think it was the hardest lesson of all for me to learn. We arrive so eager to learn, to adjust, to participate, only to find the monuments are plastic, agreements are annulled. Nothing is forever, nothing is so terrible, or so wonderful, that it won't disintigrate."
She sees the irony of people telling her she fits in - that she is "doing well" - because well, as she is aware, is all a matter of perspective:
"At school they say Du's doing so well, isn't he, considering. Considering what? I want to say. Considering that he has lived through five or six languages, five or six countries, two or three centuries of history; has seen his county, city, and family butchered, bargained with pirates and bureaucrats, eaten filth in order to stay alive; that he has survived every degredation known to this century, considering all those liabilities, isn't is amazing that he can read a Condensed and Simplified for Modern Students edition of A Tale of Two Cities?"
It's an interesting novel - not high adventure, but a great deal to think about. It may not be my favorite of the year, but I'm certainly glad I read it.
Source: Franklin Avenue Library
Don't just take my word for it! Here's what another fabulous blogger had to say:
Natasha at Maw Books Blog