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All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India Paperback – October 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594865264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594865268
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rachel Manija Brown also writes urban fantasy under the pen name Lia Silver, and lesbian romance under the pen name Rebecca Tregaron. When she's not writing, she works as a therapist, specializing in the treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.)

You can write to her at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MLPlayfair on April 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India" is Rachel Manija Brown's enchanting chronicle of growing up in an ashram in India. In 1980, when she was 7, her hippie parents moved her with them from Los Angeles, Calif., to Ahmednagar, India, to worship a deceased Indian guru named Baba, whom they referred to as "God." (Baba's the one who coined the phrase "Don't worry, be happy.") In Ahmednagar, she tells us, "the seasons consisted of Unpleasantly Hot, Unbearably Hot, and for two months every few years, Soaking Wet." Her parents sent her to a Catholic school, where she was forced to endure punishment at whim from the sadistic, "ruler-wielding nuns." Add to that the unending poverty in India and the constant dangers from the hostile environment - including king cobras - and there was plenty for a young girl to find disagreeable.

Brown describes her travels with her parents around the countryside and introduces us to the eccentric disciples of Baba and their bizarre rituals. She talks about Indian religion and history and has an interesting insight into Hindu mythology. I identified with the young girl who, from a very early age, found companionship in books. In the funny coming-of-age memoir, she reveals honest feelings: "I took malicious pleasure in things that freaked out Mom. It was nothing personal. I would have also enjoyed things that freaked out Dad, except that nothing ever did." It reads like a novel because of her easy writing style, and she often comes up with strange but lovely phrasing, as when, after a big rain, she says, "The air smelled of fresh water that is still but not stagnant, a green smell touched with blue." She made me laugh out loud, and several times I audibly gasped at the surprising, even shocking, events.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Brown wreaks a cathartic revenge on her self-involved hippie parents in this mordant, laugh-out-loud memoir of her formative years in an ashram in India. She was a precocious seven when her parents announced they were moving from Los Angeles to backwater Ahmednagar.

It was there that the guru they had been devoted to since their drugged-out Berkeley college days, Meher Baba (who Brown credits with the saying, "Don't worry, be happy), had established an ashram. "Its residents usually explained where it was by saying, `Get on a train in Bombay, and go east for nine hours.' "

From the start, Brown was appalled. "I didn't care about Baba....But I knew there was nothing I could do. There was already an envelope in Dad's dresser drawer containing three one-way tickets to India." Over the next five years a deep component of sheer misery would be added to that feeling of shock and helplessness.

She opens the book with an account of one of their rare vacations. The ashram "was located in what I had previously thought of as the most desolate place in India. But the expanse of brown-baked weeds about a hundred miles west of Ahmednagar was giving it some serious competition."

Stranded, Brown reads a fantasy novel while her parents squabble about whose fault it is there is no train to their mountain hotel.

"The novel's heroine, Harry, was a foreign girl who gets kidnapped by desert nomads and learns to ride bareback and do magic.

"Certainly I could identify with the `kidnapped and taken to a foreign desert' part, though I wished I were enjoying my experience as much as Harry was enjoying hers. I also wished three of her magnificent desert steeds would appear, so we could ride them up the mountain.

"Mom poked me.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Donald L. Hardy on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sometimes cliches come true. I simply couldn't put this book down. I had laundry to put away, chores to do, and kept saying "Just one more chapter."

I'm slightly internet acquainted with the author, so when the book came out I bought it here, to support someone I "know" -- an interesting and increasing phenomenon -- and then let it sit on the shelf for several weeks. Yesterday afternoon I picked it up as I was cleaning the house, and read the first chapter.

And was riveted. Brown's eye for detail, her use of language, her humor and candour make this a pleasurable read. The circumstances she describes make it gripping. I'd cruise along, snickering at the eccentricity of the people around her, and then be stopped in my tracks, sometimes by horror at the things she and the children around her endured at school, and sometimes by the beauty she managed to find in a distinctly un-beautiful landscape.

What struck me in retrospect, after reading comments here and elswhere on the net, was something I didn't really recognize as I read it, though it was in front of my eyes. Brown doesn't ridicule the people who surrounded her at the ashram, she views them with the ruthless logic of a child, and all the while looks at the adults around her with the unspoken question "Don't you people see that this is seriously screwy? Is it just me?" The question is there in the book -- Brown was clear from the start that she got that things were skewed and that the adults didn't get it -- but I didn't recognize the voice and mindset of that questioning until I thought back. Brown was a rational seven year old set down in a completely irrational situation. That she was able, twenty or so years later, to write about it with humor as well as horror is a testament to her resilience.

This is an unforgettable read. Highly, highly recommended.
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