Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Hope Factory: A Novel, by Lavanya Sankaran (Publication date April 23, 2013)

Finally! A book about India that doesn't have to do with getting married or coming of age, or American-born-of Indian-heritage going back to India/dealing with being in the west/whatever. (That's a generalization, I know, but so many of the books I've come across run on that theme, usually with brightly colored saris or spices on the cover.)

The Hope Factory is a gently told novel that takes the time to craft characters, settings, and situations, all grounded in reality and believability. Two interwoven tales: the first is that of Anand, who simply wishes to expand his business, by expanding his factory. The second story centers on Kamala, one of the servants of Anand’s family, a single mother, subsisting on a small income, trying to carve out a world for herself and her teenage son, who seems to be running with a bad crowd.

Unfortunately for each, life can become complex and difficult. In Anand's case, politics and conflicting loyalties move in to muck up the land sale. (Having experienced India politics through family who lives there, I can attest to the good job done in the depiction.) For Kamala, the precarious balance of her world and economics is threatened by changes in her rent, and in the needs of her son.

This is a story of real people, with real needs, worries, hopes, and concerns. The characters come across as such. I found the second half of the novel moved more quickly, but that the first half needed the pace it did to set the stage and create the world. The end was a bit abrupt, but true to life. We rarely wrap episodes of our existence up into neat little packages, but they tend to slide, with hope, into the next day, the next challenge, the next phase of life. And sometimes, the next adventure.

I received this book via the Early Reviewers program of LibraryThing. Many thanks to LT and to the publishers for letting me into the Bangalore of Anand and Kamala.

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