- Paperback: 306 pages
- Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (February 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 141968440X
- ISBN-13: 978-1419684401
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,725,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Only the Eyes Are Mine Paperback – February 1, 2008
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Top customer reviews
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The book draws you into the life of Sita, a poor woman with big dreams. It reminded me of an Indian, fictionalized version of "Angela's Ashes" in its poignancy and authenticity.
Married as a child to a man who doesn't love her, Sita ends up in Northern California where her niece is planning her own wedding to a man she doesn't love. In between, there is love, hate, fear, violent death, misery, resignation, and joy, all told with an empathy that resonates, and a plot that pulls one along and made it difficult to put down the book.
I'd recommend this novel to anyone interested in human drama, and to readers of Indian novelists such as Jhumpa Lahiri or Chitra Divakaruni.
It's published by a small Indian house. I found Amazon the easiest way to find this book.
In America, as her niece, whom she has raised, struggles with her impending marriage to a "good Indian man" her father & her auntie wish for as a son-in-law, Sita looks back on her life in India in the 1940s when she was given as a poor, illiterate child bride to a boy with a secret, & remembers the twists & turns her path has taken, the fame she knew as an expert weaver, the forbidden loves & tragic losses she has survived.
An engrossing & memorable debut novel.
For me, Indian females are a newcomer population, even here in Silicon Valley. While I've been acquainted on a professional level with Indian men, I've never had the opportunity to meet many Indian women. To me, Indian women have always seemed somehow exotic and mysterious.
"Only..." was like having a revealing conversation with a stranger. Usha Alexander's writing style is very intimate. Even though in some instances, she assumes knowledge not yet developed, it is very easy to keep up with our protagonist, Sita.
I followed Sita, a poor Indian girl, through her arranged marriage to an unsuitable husband. I was compelled to watch with horrified fascination Sita's self-sabotage and shake my head in wonder. All the while my memory was pinging with discomfort as I related to some of my own bad choices.
Although I was anticipating a wider cultural understanding, I found instead another sister. We grew up in different circumstances and I did find the contrasts to my own experiences very compelling. But the true gift of this story was the overwhelming similarity in spirit.
My only real complaint about this book was that it was far too short. I could have easily read an entire series revolving around Sita and her family, especially her next generation family and the challenges they face straddling the two cultures. I hope that Alexander considers her novel only a beginning.
As Sita's Indian story unfolds, it starts to illuminate her present life in the US. The confusions of her American niece and nephew feel very real. Unlike so many Indian-American stories, this one does not peddle a cheesy brand of Indian spirituality for western palettes. It has no magical realism, nor is it preoccupied with the migrant's sentimental sense of loss, nostalgia, and pining for a faraway home (and that too from well-fed economic migrants!), but regards home to be, above all, within the self, wherever one is.
Here is a sharp and clear-eyed portrait of life in one Indian family. Characters are vividly drawn, they struggle between duty and desire, the dramatic tension is just right. In the Indian story, the author handles with great deftness difficult subjects like infidelity, homosexuality, and incest (between family members not related by blood). In portraying the ancient hijra commune of India, the author seems to have put her anthropology background to good use. Illuminating the story is a nuanced and morally alert narrative voice. Despite Sita's problematic acts, she remains thoroughly deserving of our sympathy -- a testament to the skill of the author as a storyteller.
I only wish the author had given more prominence to mid-20th century historical events in India. Nor does she engage much in overt social commentary, but then, this has both pros and cons in a novel. The ending is both apt and cathartic. A truly remarkable first novel.