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Homework Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 18, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
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The narrator of Suneeta Peres da Costa's Homework was born with antennae on her head, and no matter what surgery doctors attempt, they keep growing back. One doctor doesn't see much of a problem, though he does admit that Mina Pereira "might be a little sensitive, that's all, there are enough nerve endings in those things for lightning to strike them!" Over time Mina comes to think of them as her "feelers," through which she receives a heightened perception of the emotions flowing through the atmosphere around her. And what a highly charged atmosphere the Pereira house holds: Mina's mother is suffering a breakdown that leads her to become obsessed with birds--to the point of trying to become one. Her father has responded by donning a miner's helmet and retreating into the basement. Meanwhile, Mina's child-genius sister scorns her and her schoolmates consider her a freak of nature.
Peres da Costa's first novel is the heartbreaking story of a little girl's struggle to survive a family so dysfunctional that it constantly teeters on the edge of chaos. Though the author was born in 1977, her writing is astonishingly mature, her blend of bright humor and raw pain reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum and of early Ian McEwan. An extraordinary debut infused with Goan spice. --Anna Davis
From Publishers Weekly
This first novel about an Indian family transplanted to Australia introduces a young writer with a gift for humor, irony and tragicomedy and an unusual, sometimes stiflingly inventive way with words. Peres da Costa's irrepressible heroine, Mina Pereira, was born with two "protuberances, no bigger than finger tips" on the top of her skull. As she grows, these nodes or feelers heighten and betray Mina's emotional states as she negotiates her way through a series of misadventures. Mina's mother is a palliative physician, caretaker of the terminally ill ("I'd rather die," Mina tells the neighbors when they ask her if she would like to pursue the same career). Her father, a tinkerer and dissident, has a printing press in the garage from which he publishes a triannual publication on Goan liberation. Mina's two sistersADeepa, the eldest, a smug, relentlessly superior genius, and Shanti, the youngest, and the only "normal" one, who sits in front of the TV all day watching cartoonsAand her friends, a one-eyed neighbor boy named Quentin and Deepa's school friend Jacinta, a vicious terror of mythic proportions, are woven into Mina's poignant and deadpan narration of disasters small and large. Moving from adventures with Sea Monkeys, librarians and violin lessons, Mina gradually brings the dissolution of her parents' lives to center stage, as her father struggles with his wife's deepening manic depression and her contempt for him, and retreats to a hideaway he digs under the house. Though Mina claims to love her mother boundlessly, it is the touching portrait of her father that convinces most. In the end, the little antennae seem an unnecessary device, for Mina's voiceAand her own take on her indomitable sisters and her doomed fatherApropel this talented young Australian's story forward with unconventional wit, energy and depth of feeling. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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