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Arranged along the month of Ramzan and the elaborate culinary practices of ritual fasting, the novel uses food, clothing and domestic space to give an authentic picture of tradition even as it poses questions about its modern adaptability. Sometimes, Salma’s women succeed in opening a path to education, to love, to friendship—at other times they are weighed down by the past’s baggage.
A marvelous cast of characters reminds us of other female fictions like Anjana Appachana’s Listening Now and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Salma uses a village setting, perhaps gathered from her own experience of being a community leader, a sarpanch, in Tamil Nadu. The tales are interwoven like braided hair, distinct yet together. Salma is a consummate storyteller, blending poetry and prose, gossip and history. Lakshmi Holmstrom’s admirable translation carries the reader into the sweep of oral, talkative, busy people.