- Paperback: 381 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 27, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345483154
- ISBN-13: 978-0345483157
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Song of the Cuckoo Bird: A Novel Paperback – December 27, 2005
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Malladi's fourth novel transports readers on a cinematic journey through late-twentieth-century India as seen through the eyes of the inhabitants of Tella Meda, a religious community on the Bay of Bengal. Kokila comes to the ashram in 1961 as an 11-year-old orphan. She later renounces her arranged marriage to stay within Tella Meda's restrictive walls, a move she comes to regret. The ashram's guru attracts a cast of misfits from near and far--widows, abused wives and their neglected children, the daughter of a prostitute, a father guilty over his daughter's suicide--each illuminated by Malladi in her kaleidoscopic perusal of both the ills of India's caste system and the repercussions of rigid moral dicta. Running historical updates on India's wars, elections, and assassinations introduce each chapter. But the crux of the novel is how Malladi's female characters struggle with the stifling effects of caste and gradually respond to the movement for women's rights that surges as the century draws to a close. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“A sprawling, gorgeous intergenerational saga, in which the spice and savor of traditional India progresses painfully into the present–the changing of women’s lives and the dimunition of the man as household god. Told through the mysterious embroidery of one family’s tapestry–its life, loves, regrets, secrets, deaths, and even what comes after death–Song of the Cuckoo Bird is mesmerizing.”
–Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Breakdown Lane
Top customer reviews
What else did I love? It is set in a Ashram with a female guru. The Ashram is run by the bizarre father of the guru and how he impacts each of the inhabitants is fascinating. Each woman is located at the ashram because of less than perfect circumstances and watching them grow as souls is delicious. I loved the depiction of Indian culture and relationships. The rich way the author describes all aspects of this book like feeling a complex fabric tapestry. Oh the depiction of different types of love soul opening!!
Kokilia, a young Indian girl, comes to live in Tella Meda, an ashram, where she must wait to menstruate before she goes to live with her husband. She decides that she doesn't want to leave and lives there for the rest of her life amongst other people who are not accepted anywhere else, whether they are the daughter of a prostitute or a widow whose relatives do not want her. The relationships between the characters are very intriguing, and are slightly similar to the tight-knit environment of a small high school. The people in the ashram all have different morals, values, and beliefs, and this often leads to conflict. However, they all have one thing in common that binds them together; they have no other place to go.
It is amazing to read how the characters hurdle obstacle after obstacle and carry on with life despite their numerous problems. The chapters alternate points of view and show the differences between the characters' hopes and fears and how they think of each other. What I like the most about this book is how all of the characters still hold onto their aspirations despite their social situations. Also, I like how the author mentions what is happening politically in India while the residents of Tella Meda are carrying on their everyday lifestyles. Because they are so out of touch with the real world, these things do not affect the characters. It is interesting to see the differences of how the death of a prime minister is handled by an urban city dweller compared to how it is handled by a poor outcast in a small town. What seems like a big deal in the city seems like nothing in Tella Meda. The small sheltered environment is the only home the characters have, so they only care what is happening in that place.
The only problem I have with this book is that there are too many characters that have similar names, and it is easy to get them confused with one another. Some of these characters are even unnecessary; the author just eliminates them from the story entirely.
All in all however, this book is a great novel. So many different events happen, making the plot exciting and interesting, and with the different points of view on each of these events, it is possible to see all sides of the story.
I loved this story because it is richly detailed with the women's lives in South India for the past 50 years, Hindu traditions, how small towns in India have developed, South Indian taboos and superstitions, and modernization. Malladi's storytelling style was also great because it's simple and to-the-point. A glossary of Telugu words would have been helpful. This story has all the elements of a lifetime: love, loss, hope, devastation, heartbreaks, death, and tradition, therefore it was a joy to read and learn about a lifestyle so different from mine.