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Haunting Bombay Hardcover – April 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156947558X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569475584
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,885,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Agarwal's atmospheric if excessively detailed debut takes readers deep into the mysterious heart of Bombay in the 1960s. Thirteen-year-old Pinky Mittal lives with her obese, matriarchal grandmother, Maji; her alcoholic uncle, Jaginder; bitter aunt Savita; and three teenage male cousins. Taken in as an infant by her grandmother after her mother died, Pinky knows she's Maji's favorite, even if her aunt despises her. Driven by adolescent curiosity, Pinky unlocks a door in her family bungalow that has been bolted her entire life and unleashes the ghost of an infant girl and her midwife, sending her whole family into a tailspin. Surrounded by superstitions and spirituality, Pinky tries to unravel a past rife with pain and deceit as three generations of her formerly stalwart family crumble around her. This multigenerational family saga is rich with eccentric characters and period details, but Agarwal too often clogs the page with nonessential descriptions. (Apr.)
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Review

A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller

“Intriguing.”—USA Today

“Will definitely appeal to fans of Monica Ali and Jhumpa Lahiri . . . fresh, original.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

More About the Author


Shilpa Agarwal is the author of Haunting Bombay (April 2009, Soho Press), a bestselling literary ghost story set in 1960's India that weaves together a gripping mystery and haunting supernatural spirits in a story of power and powerlessness, voice and silence in modern India. Haunting Bombay will be published internationally in Italy, Spain, Russia, and India in 2010.

In 2003, Shilpa was awarded a First Words Literary Prize for South Asian Writers. She earned her B.A. from Duke University and graduate degrees in Comparative Literature from UCLA. She has taught at both UCLA and UCSB in the Asian-American Studies and Women's Studies departments. www.shilpaagarwal.com

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
If you enjoy reading, don't miss this entertaining and well-written story.
Book Lover
Plus, this novel provides interesting insights into the Indian culture and should appeal to those interested in exploring other cultures.
Z Hayes
Shilpa Agarwal's debut novel is written with the deft hand of one who truly knows how to tell a good story.
Emily Frankel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By K. Boston on April 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
After cracking this book, my plans for the day were shot. I stayed up until early morning to finish it.

It could have been all that lovely detail, I'm a sucker it. I couldn't believe Publisher's Weekly said it clogged the book. The details in Haunting Bombay do more than paint a picture, they took me on a tour of a completely different world from my own. I felt the rustle of silk across my skin, was drenched by the monsoon rain, and smelled the spiciness of afternoon tea. Not only that, but I got to feel the repression of a girl where women have few opportunities and no voice. It surprised me that the men in the story were also repressed by their culture, weighed down by their own cultural expectations and obligations.

What else kept me reading? Ms. Agarwal did a first-rate job on creating a thrilling mystery filled with spirits who are not just embellishments, but full-drawn characters in their own right. The author had real compassion for all her characters, ghosts or otherwise, and it made them so much more appealing and believable. Be careful, you may find yourself haunted by them long after you close the pages of this beautiful book. I look forward to reading more from this promising first-time author.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Emily Frankel on March 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Shilpa Agarwal's debut novel is written with the deft hand of one who truly knows how to tell a good story. Her characters come to life on the very first page, and as she weaves the story, creating such mystery and intense yearning to know the secrets hidden in the souls of these characters who by the end feel like old friends, she leaves the reader breatheless, spent, slightly disoriented, not wanting the story to end. Haunting Bombay is so good you'll have to read it many times because you'll be reading so fast, caught up in the drama, that every time will be like reading it anew.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. H. Ryan on April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you long for travel to far-away places and really love to lose yourself in a book, then read Haunting Bombay. With beautiful visual descriptions and captivating story-telling Agarwal has written a novel that successfully achieves something that I find rare: a really good work of literature that defies categorization: historical, magical-realistic fiction--maybe? Haunting Bombay reminded me of Toni Morrison's, Beloved, with its sensitive, masterful combining of the fantastic with the real. This is a brilliant first novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By humanobserver on April 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
From my perspective, this is a gorgeous piece of work! The tapestry of India that is woven and the lyrical command over words astonished me and at times, took my breath away. I also appreciated the ending and thought that it revealed due empathy towards marginalized segments of society. I think this is great talent, and I hope it goes places. I am going to recommend it to people in India as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. B. Ramaswami on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Once in a long while you come across a story that is incredibly well-written and beautifully told. Haunting Bombay is one of those stories. With descriptive, lyrical prose and wonderful imagery of post-modern India, this story is about love, heartache, difficult life-decisions and being a woman in a society where only the privileged seem to matter. I couldn't put this book down and now that I finished it, I am reading it again. There is so much suspense and don't worry, it isn't a scary ghost story! Have a great journey!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Kastenbaum on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I know we are used to having ghost as part of the family when we read Marquez or Allende but having them visit us in Bombay is refreshing.
Even with the reading of the book behind me and daily live continuing at a maddening pace I find myself pausing, being visited if not by the characters themselves then by the questions of redemption, loss and self preservation they bring up.
How do my actions impact me and my family not just today but in future generations? what price do we pay for secrets?
Haunting Bombay is a remarkable first novel, I look forward to rereading it so I may extract yet another layer and grow more intimate with it's characters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Ayers on April 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written tale, full of delicious details. A thought provoking book, that causes one to wonder can children see what adults refuse to see and feel what adults fear feeling. A story of family, the secrets that haunt them and the ghosts that tear them apart. Haunting Bombay delivers surprises until the very end. Read and enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Haunting Bombay" is one of those novels that pulls a reader in and doesn't let go - at least for me. I found myself reading through this highly atmospheric and lyrical story through the night and basically finished it in two days. I'm a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri's and Chitra Baneerjee Divakaruni's works which have a poetic quality to them whilst focusing on mainly family-based stories, and Shilpa Agarwal has managed to impress with her remarkable first novel.

The story revolves around the Mittal family - there's 13-year-old Pinky who has been raised by her grandmother Maji since she was an infant when she lost her mother Yamuna in the dark days of the Partition in India [which eventually led to the formation of the separate Muslim state of Pakistan]. Pinky shares a close bond with her Maji, but is treated like an outcast, a "destitute cousin" by her aunt Savita who resents Pinky's presence in the household, given that Savita herself had lost an infant daughter just before Pinky's arrival. Pinky is also going through some emotional upheavals having to do with her infatuation with 17-year-old cousin Nimish. When she finds out Nimish is in fact secretly in love with next-door neighbor, Lovely, Pinky acts out. The children's bathroom has always been locked after sunset, and when Pinky unbolts this door, the ghosts lying dormant within are awakened with the family bearing the brunt of their wrath.

There is much to savor in this story - family dynamics, superstitions, dark family secrets, addictions, adolescent pangs, suppressed emotions, etc and all these are credibly portrayed by the use of evocative and descriptive language.
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