The Mango Season Paperback – October 26, 2004
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From the Inside Flap
Every young Indian leaving the homeland for the United States is given the following orders by their parents: Dont eat any cow (Its still sacred!), dont go out too much, save (and save, and save) your money, and most important, do not marry a foreigner. Priya Rao left India when she was twenty to study in the U.S., and shes never been back. Now, seven years later, shes out of excuses. She has to return and give her family the news: Shes engaged to Nick Collins, a kind, loving American man. Its going to break their hearts.
Returning to India is an overwhelming experience for Priya. When she was growing up, summer was all about mangoesripe, sweet m
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From the Hardcover edition.
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The family "one up-manship" of talent and pride in picking the best mango, in skills related to the process, etc., are the back-biting pecking order innuendos that are perhaps ubiquitous. The mother, however, shows me nothing but rigid thinking. The case isn't clearly made for why this young woman cares so much for her approval or the others' opinions.
Good grief, all they do is put our heroine back in the same slot that she occupied in relationship ten years previously when she had left. Also, the central character swings widely from mature and insightful to petty and needy.
I'd have been much more interested if the author had developed the character of the subserviant "unmarriageable" cousin, "ugly" and in a vulnerable position, whose role is servant and general stray dog that everyone has tacit permission to kick around.
And the coup de grace, the damning period, is the trick ending. good grief. This is closer to Bollywood than any semblance to serious literature.
In fact, it isnt literature; it's fiction gussied up because it's from an Indian writer. This one wasn't ready for prime time. I had hoped that the mango itself would become a central metaphor, and that the character would come to a self revelation from the experience, but alas, her inner conflict, for me, is way underdeveloped and poorly explored.
Top international reviews
For the first thirty pages or so, I didn't enjoy this book at all. I found Priya's jaunty tone irritating, and her family rather caricatured - particularly her overweight bad-tempered mother, who was always threatening to beat her. As I read on, however, I found myself getting more involved in the novel. Malludi's language may be a bit clunky at times, and some of the plot seemed unbelievable (would Priya really have avoided her family for seven years, and if she had, wouldn't her return have been less taken for granted?) but she writes fascinatingly about Indian culture, and highlights the plight of women raised in traditional Indian families very well. The treatment of Neelima, Priya's uncle's wife, who is rejected by the family for being from Northern India and for having married for love rather than in an arranged marriage, was harrowing, but very effectively conveyed, as was the story of Sowmya, the plain daughter who still had to find a husband at the age of 30 (her story became distinctly heartwarming). Some of the characters, particularly Priya's patriarchal grandfather, were well depicted (though Priya's mother remained a rather silly creation throughout) and I found myself warming to Priya as the novel went on. There's also some mouthwatering depictions of food!
I did wonder at times if Malladi was slanting the novel too much in America's favour, and tending to criticize Indian culture too heavily. This is a novel that presents America very much as 'good' and 'open to anything' and India as 'backward'. I'm sure that a lot of the things that Malladi writes about are true, but I did feel that Priya's absolute acceptance of American culture and lack of criticism of her adopted country (she seemed to feel no unease about the more ruthless aspects of capitalism, for example) was a bit one-dimensional, and that there were aspects of her own culture she might have missed more (apart from the food!). But I haven't visited modern India, so am not really in a position to comment here.
All in all, though I didn't enjoy everything about this book, it was an interesting (and very short!) read and makes me want to explore this author's work further. Three and a half stars.
You can experience the book along with the characters and that's what makes a book a wonderful treat.
You can feel the heat of India in this ,the colours and dilemas faced by cultural differences.
At the end its all about courage and leading a life you wish for.
An eye opener for couples who experience the same problems
An inspirational book for young women, who are controlled by their family traditions in order to please them instead of seeking their own happiness.