Adolescence is never easy, but add a move to a foreign country, immersion in a fringe "spiritual community" and attendance at a school where your classmates throw rocks at you, and it becomes downright disturbing. In this quirky, frank coming-of-age memoir, television writer Brown deftly recounts her childhood spent in an ashram in India in the 1980s, as the only resident child in a community of (mostly) Westerners who worshipped Baba, a self-proclaimed leader of a vague spiritual "way of life." Brown, known to her parents as Mani Mao, spent her days at Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ the Savior School, the recounting of which is initially quite humorous, but soon takes a turn for the worse as readers realize the unending physical and emotional abuse Brown endured due to her foreign status. (A particularly funny scene occurs when Brown returns to India years later and is chased in her car by children who throw rocks. "Had their older siblings passed down the Legend of Mani Mao?" Brown wonders.) While extensive on the depictions of "Baba," whom Brown never met nor felt any connection to, this is a poignant memoir that reflects a painful time with wit and insight.
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Like humorists Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, Brown taps into the terrain of her unusual--and, at times, unsettling--childhood for this engaging debut. In the early 1980s, seven-year-old Brown, a self-described misfit whose nose was forever poked in a book, was towed by her hippie parents to Ahmednagar, India, home to followers of the late Meher Baba. (The longtime guru to rock singer Pete Townsend, Baba is also credited with the cloying quote, "Don't worry, be happy.") As the sole foreign child in a backwater town, young Brown's encounters ranged from curious to chilling: beatific disciples, kooky pilgrims, and mean-spirited classmates who hurled rocks at her. Brown, now an award-winning television writer and playwright in Los Angeles, intermittently flashes forward to document her life after escaping the ashram at the age of 12, a narrative strategy that slows the pace of the book. But her mordant accounts of her Baba-worshipping mother and daily life in India (from its blistering heat and belligerent bugs to taxi drivers who clean their windshields with baked potatoes) enlighten and delight. Allison Block
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Brown recounts her horrifying, traumatic childhood with much-needed humor and perspective. Despite her unusual circumstances growing up in an ashram in India, Brown's experiences... Read morePublished 11 months ago by J. C. Runolfson
I really wanted to give it 3.5 stars. This book hit home for me in many ways. I don't want to make this review about me, but let me say that I have spent time in India, in an... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jennifer Addington
What would you do if your parents whisked you away from Los Angeles to The Middle of Nowhere, India, at age 7, to live amongst the disciples of their late spiritual guru, attend... Read morePublished on June 14, 2013 by Joseph Choi
This memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost Rachael Manija Brown, starts it off with a quote by -George Bernard Shaw- " If you have skeletons in your closet, you may as well... Read morePublished on May 9, 2013 by Lachula
I read this book on life in India with great interest till the description of the young boy permanently damaged by his teacher. Read morePublished on March 22, 2012 by d
This book should be seen as part of a larger picture. I found myself incapable of reading the book as a self contained entity, but instead as a reflection of much larger issues of... Read morePublished on August 8, 2010 by David R. Courtney
I wish this author would write MY memoirs someday, because I really love her voice. The "plot" of her life is quirky, to be sure, but she tells it with such warmth and grace, I... Read morePublished on May 31, 2008 by Jiffyjiff
As I read Rachel Brown's book it reminded me of how we took apart novels in college. If this had been discussed we would discuss how her abused mother felt drawn to, felt the need... Read morePublished on March 18, 2008 by Steve Sora
Rachel Manija Brown, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India (Rodale, 2005)
I'm not a big fan of memoirs, but I have to admit, once this one gets... Read more