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Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard Paperback – May 18, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (May 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385493703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385493703
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,949,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Pity the poor Chawla family of Shahkot, India--their son, Sampath causes all kinds of trouble for his family, culminating in a Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, but in a village like Shakhot, hullabaloo is a way of life. Indian writer Kiran Desai begins her first novel with Sampath's birth at the tail-end of a terrible drought. His mother, Kulfi, half-maddened by heat and hunger, can think of nothing but food: "Her stomach grew larger. Her dreams of eating more extravagant. The house seemed to shrink. All about her the summer stretched white-hot into an infinite distance. Finally, in desperation for another landscape, she found a box of old crayons in the back of a cupboard and ... began to draw.... As her husband and mother-in-law retreated in horror, not daring to upset her or the baby still inside her, she drew a parade of cooks beheading goats." Sampath's father, Mr. Chawla is a man for whom "oddness, like aches and pains, fits of tears and lethargy" is a source of discomfort; he fears "these uncontrollable, messy puddles of life, the sticky humanness of things." This distaste for sticky humanness will prove problematic for Mr. Chawla later in life when his son grows up to become a young man possessed of a great deal of feeling and very little common sense or ambition.

Mr. Chawla's frustration comes to a head when Sampath loses his menial job at the post office after performing an impromptu cross-dressing strip-tease at his boss's daughter's wedding. Confined to the house in disgrace, Sampath runs away from home and takes refuge in the branches of a guava tree in an abandoned orchard outside of town. At first family and townsfolk think he's mad, but in an inspired moment of self-preservation Sampath, who had spent his time in the post office reading other people's mail, reveals some choice secrets about his persecutors and convinces them that he is, in fact, clairvoyant. It isn't long before Mr. Chawla sees the commercial possibilities of having a holy man in the family, and pretty soon the guava orchard has become the latest stop along the spiritual tourism trail.

Take one holy man in a guava tree, add a venal father, a food-obsessed mother and a younger sister in love with the Hungry Hop Kwality Ice Cream boy and you've got a recipe for delicious comedy. Mix in a rioting band of alcoholic monkeys, a journalist determined to expose Sampath as a fraud, an unholy trio of hypochondriac district medical officer, army general and university professor, all determined to solve the monkey problem, and you've got a real hullabaloo. Kiran Desai's delirious tale of love, faith, and family relationships is funny, smartly written, and reminiscent of other works by Indian authors writing in English such as Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Banerjee Divakaruni's The Mistress of Spices and Shashi Tharoor's Show Business. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-This delightful romp is full of zany characters that wreak havoc on a village in India. Sampath, the ambitionless son of the middle-class Chawla family, wants to escape the looming responsibilities of his adult life. He decides to climb into a guava tree and live there in peaceful contemplation. The townspeople start to revere him as a holy man and seek his counsel for their problems. His enigmatic responses only increase their awe for him. His father reacts by looking at the commercial possibilities of having many pilgrims coming to see Sampath. His mother spends her days searching the countryside for rare and unusual food to prepare for him. His sister struggles to maintain her independence but falls hopelessly in love with the Hungry Hop Ice Cream boy. Inept bureaucrats, bungling army officers, a spy for the atheist society, and a herd of monkeys with a taste for liquor add to this hilariously irreverent story. With humor that transcends cultures, this funny story about a very eccentric family will appeal to many teens.
Penny Stevens, Centreville Regional Library, Centreville, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's an 'OK' sort of book not a 'must read'!!!!
Mrs. Kandy N. Smith
If you have read Graham Greene's "Monsignor Quixote" or enjoyed Monty Python's "Life of Brian," you will love this book.
Christopher P. Dunn
I'm impressed with the humor in the book and how she achieve being funny without diminishing her characters.
Henning Henning

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
It has been some time since I read this delightful book, so all of its details aren't crystal clear to me now. But I feel like I must respond to those (both here and in a few periodicals) who claim Desai wrote this book for a "Western" audience. I don't think Desai wrote this book for any other reason than the sheer joy of putting together a fun, sharp story. This is no Oprah's book of the month marketing hogwash here, and it is preposterous to claim that Desai was "targeting" an audience at all, except, perhaps, the audience that simply enjoys a story for the story's sake. When I checked her biography on the book's jacket, I didn't see anything referring to her obtaining a degree in marketing. I think this is a stimulating and beautifully written first novel by a young writer who probably had no alterior motives in writing it except to tell a story. One recent reviewer here stated that Desai was trying "to show how the East really is ... whether it is like that or not" and used a sentence - a single sentence mind you! - as proof of that point. C'mon. Lighten up. This is a nice piece of fiction and it should be enjoyed for what it is, not for what hypersensitive, politically charged minds think it is trying to be. I do understand the criticism of the ending. But I would suggest that those who didn't "get it" go back and read the last few pages again. I love the way the events leading up to the last sentence begins crescendoing a few pages before. It was almost (cliche alert) like a jazz composition in its thought and rhythm. Read it out loud (that is how I enjoyed it fully) and you'll see what I mean. And it does come to a Bang! stop. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By percy panthaki on May 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
A book with profusion of words evoking images and ideas, a book with a very refined sense of humour which will nevertheless make you laugh out loud; not merely smirk, a book with a stronger regional flavour than any other indian author i've read, a book so so simple in its construction yet so all encompassing...what more can i say! Kiran Desai though residing out of india writes with such minute detail about the commonplace in indian suburbia. She does not describe the beauty of the local mountains or rivers as some other indian authors do, or portray the traditions and customs of the region; she goes to the very daily life of the characters with which any reader can connect it with. The scene in which sampath is sleeping in a hot room full of snoring people or the scene in which his father upbraids him for his lack of enthusiasm and initiative in life are occurances the ordianry reader must have gone through and yet one cant but help but laughing at the way in which these domestic senes are described.
The characters are also very well developed and though there being nothing extraordinary about the characters(in fact u might find most of them in your home or in the neighbourhood) each of them has some idiosyncracy. For example the extremely epicurean sampath's mother, Pinky's vainglory, sampath's father being very worldly wise and seeing an opportunity of making money where others might fear a loss, and of course sampath of whom i need say nothing about.
The ending though others say is wierd or some others dont understand is i think the best way to end this type of book. One must'nt expect a logical or rational ending to a book which is one of the best works of creative writing that i have ever read. the ending is equally creative.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miami Bob on January 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Ordinarily, a twenty-something year old writer cannot very well delve deeply into the character or soul of the lead characters. But, this is not an ordinary book written by an ordinary writer.

Young Desai elicits many of her origin country's (Indian) mannerisms in this delightful farce about her native people's askance perspective of a simple boy (Sampath) whose Forrest-Gump-like maturation emerges into a world of prophecy and surreal mysticism. His life remains basically the same, but the "others'" changed perspective delivers him from simpleton embarrassment (failure at school and work while attempting to become part of Indian society) to his family (the Chawla family of Shahkot) to being the revered worldly saint of the Indian press - who report his pithy witticisms espoused by he while living in a giant guava tree with his beloved soulmates -- monkeys.

The book's vision delightfully dances about Sampath's human frailty to emerging into the godly world within an unsuspecting orchard for the first 120 pages. Thereafter, the book's tone turns drastically to cynicism toward Sampath's ardor as his godly route bedevils the adults and bureaucrats around him. Their intrusions compel Sampath to be extracted from his wonderful life of simpleton whose quest for happiness is to extol his life's value to those he most adores -- the monkeys who join him in the great guava tree in the guava orchard.

Good intentions deliver bad results as the child-like simplicity of Sampath cannot co-exist with the regimen of Indian adult life. The believers, who wish to keep their iconic leader in the tree, must take a back seat to the requests of safety, rules and regulations enforced by the others - most particularly the bureaucrats.
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