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The Death of Vishnu: A Novel Paperback – January 8, 2002
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Fascinating view of Indian society. Very well written. Compassionate understanding of all levels of society. How rich help the poor in a caste society. And the reverse.
There is Vishnu, and bum sort of handy-man that sleeps on a landing in the apartment building. He is dying, and some of the scenes are his dreams/afterlife visions - whichever way you want to look at it. It flashes back, and you get to see some of Vishnu's life as a young boy & man in order to further understand his situation.
There are three married couples in the building - each of them with different marital problems, issues with their children, and religious standpoints. Two of the wives are always bickering, which makes for some comical scenes.
There is one widower in the building, who we don't learn much about until later, but his story reflects a lot upon the way Indians are married and how some deal with it.
All of the characters are wonderfully developed, and the narration is done by several of them, so the reader gets a glimpse into each of their thoughts.
It is set in an apartment building. The neighbors are all fighting over whose responsibility it is to care for the dying Vishnu or who needs to remove his body when he dparts.
THE RELIGIOUS UNDERTONES:
Vishnu is a Hindu god, and in his death, the character Vishnu begins to wonder if he himself is a reincarnation of the god. There are many references to Hindu folklore and mythology in the story - but even if one is unfamiliar with these tales, it is explained well.
One of the families in the building is Muslim and the rest are Hindu. One gets a glimpse of the ongoing rivalry and hatred between the two groups on a small scale as well as some of the differences and similarities between the personal lives of the two religions. The author does a good job of not making the reader prefer either of the two religions, especially by plotting for the son and daughter of the two families to maybe elope - and Romeo and Juliet type plot.
Indian culture and flavor can be sensed from this novel - even for one who is unfamiliar. The foods, the cafes, the movies, the churches, the city, etc. are all touched upon. And bless the author for putting a comprehensive GLOSSARY at the back, for all of the Indian terms that he uses. It makes it informative and a pleasure to read.
This book was very enjoyable for both it's cultural knowledge as well as the family aspects that everyone can appreciate (well, everyone that HAS a family!)