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All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India Paperback – October 17, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting story about a young girl growing up in a very strange commune type situation in India. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Big Guy's Mom
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 23 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 on April 27, 2014 by Amazon Customer
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 Alison D D
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 retired
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