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The Hero's Walk Hardcover – May 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Hero's Walk, the second novel by Anita Rau Badami, is a big, intimate book, the kind that seldom strays beyond the doors of a single residence. Set in the sweltering streets of Toturpuram, a small city on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero's Walk, which won the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book in Canada and the Caribbean, explores the troubled life of Sripathi Rao, an unremarkable, middle-aged family man and advertising copywriter.

As The Hero's Walk opens, Sripathi's life is already in a state of thorough disrepair. His mother, a domineering, half-senile octogenarian, sits like a tyrant at the top of his household, frightening off his sister's suitors, chastising him for not having become a doctor, and brandishing her hypochondria and paranoia with sinister abandon. It is Sripathi's children, however, who pose the biggest problems: Arun, his son, is becoming dangerously involved in political activism, and Maya, his daughter, broke off her arranged engagement to a local man in order to wed a white Canadian. Sripathi's troubles come to a head when Maya and her husband are killed in an automobile accident, leaving their 7- year-old daughter, Nandana, without Canadian kin. Sripathi travels to Canada and brings his granddaughter home, while his family is shaken by a series of calamities that may, eventually, bring peace to their lives. --Jack Illingworth

From Publishers Weekly

The flowering of young writers of Indian origin continues with Badami's deeply resonant debut novel, which places her in the ranks of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Akhil Sharma and Manil Suri. The scion of a once wealthy, now down-at-the-heels Brahmin family, Sripathi Rao lives in the crumbling family manse in a small city on the Bay of Bengal. At 57, Sripathi is ill-tempered, emotionally constipated and a domestic tyrant a man riding for a fall. He struggles at a mediocre job to support his dragon of a mother, unmarried but lovelorn 44-year-old sister, subservient wife and layabout son. It's the perfect setup for a domestic comedy, until fate intervenes with the sudden deaths of his daughter, Maya, and her husband, in Vancouver. Guilt-ridden for having refused to communicate with Maya because she humiliated him by marrying out of her caste and race, Sripathi brings his seven-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Nandana, back to India. Badami's portrait of a bereft and bewildered child is both restrained and heartrending; Nandana has remained mute since her parents died, believing that they will someday return. In his own way, Sripathi is also mute, unable to express his grief and longing for his dead daughter. This poignant motif is perfectly balanced by Badami's eye for the ridiculous and her witty, pointed depiction of the contradictions of Indian society. She also writes candidly about the woes of underdevelopment the "stench of fish, human beings, diesel oil, food frying," poor drains, chaotic traffic and pervasive corruption. In the course of the narrative, everyone in Sripathi's family undergoes a life change, and in the moving denouement, reconciliation grows out of tragedy, and Sripathi understands "the chanciness of existence, and the hope and the loss that always accompanied life." A bestseller in Canada, where it was a Kiriyamaa Pacific Rim Book Award finalist, Badami's novel will delight those on the lookout for works by writers on the crest of the Indian wave. Author tour. (Apr. 27)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123120
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,000,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I just finished one of the most amazing books I've
read this year. The Hero's Walk is undoubtedly one of
the finest books ever written in English by an Indian.
What makes this book so different and refreshing apart
from the plot is the treatment of the books and its
characters. The plot revolves around Sripathi Rao - a
simple man with simple needs in the town of Totapuram
nestled in the South of India - and in the Big House
we meet his wife Nirmala - the ever docile Indian Wife
- his horrendous mother Ammaya who in most respects
can be labelled a witch - his unmarried sister Putti -
who longs for the boy next door, and his son Arun - a
rebellion in the true sense of the word.
Amidst all this lies the past - of his daughter Maya
getting married to a foreigner and residing in
Vancouver - who has never seen her family for seven
years now. Her father has abolished her very name
being taken in the house - till she and her husband
Alan meet with an accident and Sripathi has to go to
Canada to claim his granddaughter Nandana.
With her parents no more, Nandana is lost and confused
in India and is trying to connect stuff to her past -
which is quite a task for a seven-year old.
The story revolves around the fact that simplicity is
the biggest act of heroism. Badami's style of writing
is dry, subtle and so so heartbreaking that it almost
had me on the verge of tears.
Though the authhor does remind you of R.K. Narayan at
various points in the book, she does have the finesse
to take you by surprise. A great read!
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Format: Hardcover
This is the most singularly wonderful book I have read in years. Others have reviewed the emotional/psychological aspects of the book, so I will address her depiction of India. I lived in southern India from 1996 to 1997 and Anita Badami's description of the area and the people of India were absolutely on the money. It was a sympathetic, if unforgiving, depiction of her homeland. When the monsoons hit, the streets do run with sewage. The electricity does go off many times throughout the day. The heat is brutal before the monsoons hit. There are scalper's selling tickets to the movies! And Deepavali is a festival of light and fireworks that I remember fondly, coming in the cool wet season of the year. I would read a passage and close my eyes and instantly be transported back to my room in Bangalore with the rumbling of the coming monsoon storm; the smell of dinner being prepared by Radha, our cook, who kept pictures and statues of gods and goddesses from every conceivable religion in the pantry next to our kitchen ("It is best, madam, to honor all the gods. You never know."); and the funny cry of those strange little squirrels with the two stripes down their backs. This book will forever remain on my shelf of favorites, to be read again and again in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
The paralyzing heat at 5:00 a.m. on a July morning in Toturpuram, on the southeast coast of India, is depicted in intense, sensual imagery from the opening of the novel and becomes a metaphor for the lives of the Rao family. Three generations living together in a large and decaying house which they cannot afford to maintain, the Raos constantly carp at each other and seethe with long-standing resentments, the emotional temperature rising in concert with the heat, which "[hangs] over the town in long, wet sheets."
Author Badami carefully selects her details to reveal both the realities of her characters' lives and the emotional climate they inhabit. The grande dame and grandmother of the family, Ammayya, is a slightly senile, mean-spirited, and caste-conscious woman, who controls her son Sripathi, her daughter Putti, and her long suffering daughter-in-law Nirmala. With unusual and homely similes and metaphors, Badami establishes the tone. Nirmala is "like a bar of Lifebuoy soap, functional but devoid of all imagination." Nirmala and Sripathi are "like a pair of bullock yoked together, endlessly turning the water wheel round and round, eyes bent to the earth." The cloudy sky is "curdled milk."
Romance is the heart of the action. The problems in the marriage of Ammayya and her husband, and of Sripathi and Nirmala are described in detail. By contrast, Sripathi's daughter Maya has happily married an American and lives in the U.S, but she has been banished from Sripathi's life for defying his wishes. When Maya and her husband Alan are killed in an accident, leaving an 8-year-old daughter the Raos have never met, they bring this silent and traumatized orphan to India and into their uncertain lives.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a poignant look at the tumultous life of an Indian family; their traditions, joys and sorrows. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the story simple yet compelling. We are given an intimate look into the daily lives of each member of the family. Each character a marvelous study unto themselves. We feel the family's pain and small joys, as they try as best they can to exist in a society that seems to be falling apart around them. Unlike another reviewer who grew tired of the 'excessive' references to sights, sounds and smells, I was fascinated by these descriptions, even when reading about the family waking up to find their home flooded by raw sewage! A final note, if any of you think your mother-in-law is a pain, wait until you meet Ammayya! I would highly recommend this novel.
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