Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The God of Small Things

Yes, I finally finished "The God of Small Things." This is not a "long" book, yet the language is densely packed, it took me longer than I thought that it would to read. The author made outstanding use of repetitions (something that I am forever trying to work on in my own writing) i.e., "Elvis the pelvis with a puff and a fountain in a love-in-Tokyo" or "Lay-ter." Single word and two word sentences within one thought were also a specialty. This had the effect of making this book read like poetry. There is violence, sadness, poverty, and shame hinted at and described outright throughout the book. The author leaves the walloping violence towards the last pages. Even if she hadn't started out describing the emotional damage of the "two-egg" twins in the first chapters, the reader would be hard pressed to miss how their emotionally damaged lives would play out after finishing the book. At it's heart is the anger and bitterness of unrequited love acted out in fierce lashings against those who fulfill love a generation later.

The author is a political writer. The politics of caste are the essence of the story. That and love, love gone seriously awry. How much has to happen before a childhood is completely destroyed before ones eyes? The emotional dysfunction of this family is palatable and, as many of my reads seem to be (I wonder what this says about me?), not for the emotionally faint of heart. I would compare this book to "A Fine Balance." It can be compared, as a book about India, but the themes in "The God of Small Things" are much more forceful to the reader (because of the children) and seem to be more truthful across cultures. "A Fine Balance" is artistically woven, a cruel and beautiful work of fiction that comes together tightly in the end or is it from the beginning??? At any rate, the books are just plain different. While we don't have the caste system in our country, I could easily imagine (and it has happened) a very similar story right here in America, maybe now, but most certainly a generation ago. Childhood and innocence lost by a stoic and twisted view that people of different classes and/or races must never mix.

What is here, at the heart of the darkness, is a love story. A love story of a mother and children, fathers and sons, yearnings that defy caste/class, religion, and wealth/poverty. Contrasting themes. It all ends in the dilapidated house in the rain forest, covered in moss and rotting. No amount of hope will bring back what was lost and the "two-egg" twins are left in the midst of tragic young adulthoods to piece their lives together within this loss.

Even in the midst of this, this was not a hard book to read, the poetry of the writing coddled the reader in some ways. It made the reader feel compelled to keep reading. The author also went back and forth in time and sequence, so the beauty of the story was forever juxtaposed against it's harshness and in the end it just made the reader think about love, life, loss, and how was any of this my childhood? if it wasn't, how lucky am I ? The God in this book is indeed the God of small things, the God of big things seems to have removed himself entirely from the story of this family.

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