Tag Archives: short stories

KARMA AND OTHER STUDIES by Rishi Reddi

For you short story fans out there, here’s a review of a new collection called Karma and Other Stories, by Rishi Reddi, which I read about in this week’s Mostly Fiction newsletter.

ReddiMost of the stories are set in the suburbs of Boston, with the exceptions of one in Kansas and another in India. However, there is no cultural overload, just small but solid images of the values of the Indian culture, their importance to the elders and the willingness of younger generations to compromise and change those traditions to adjust to the American way. Each tale is uniquely woven and easy to read, yet their themes are interconnected.
            
In “Devadasi,” Uma is a 16-year-old budding beauty, struggling with how she should handle her physical and mental transformation into a young woman. On a family trip to India, she’s torn between how tradition would want her to behave and the expectations of her American boyfriend back home. Through the guidance of her wise dance instructor, Guru-ji, she gathers some insight on how to make these choices.

Lakshmi is a submissive and obedient housewife and mother. Now that her children are grown, she’s restless with living her traditional Indian life in Modern America. In “Lakshmi and the Librarian,” she befriends the local librarian, Elias Filian, who appreciates her friendship and attention, unlike her husband who seems to be taking her for granted. After flirting with the danger of a possible affair, she sees the safety and comfort in the simple life she’s chosen.

Justice Shiva Ram Murthy would like all of his friends and family to think that he’s easily adjusted to living in Boston. What he simply cannot come to terms with is that, here in America, he’s not a renowned and respected judge, but just another Indian immigrant with an accent that’s difficult to understand. In this story, titled after the main character, we see Mr. Murthy twist a simple misunderstanding out of proportion demonstrating his frustrations with living in America.

In each of the seven expertly crafted tales, Rishi keeps us balanced on the fence, where we can clearly see both sides, and feel the push and pull from the green grass of both. She provides us with gentle truths and emotional debates that open our awareness, empathy and understanding of the fear that change can bring, along with its exciting possibilities. Her Westernized characters are light headed from their fresh existence in a new world, while the ones who cling to tradition are quietly stubborn and respectfully steadfast in their cultural beliefs. You can’t dislike any of them, which creates a great struggle for the reader, and a good reason to read on. In fact, we want to handle each of them with an intimate delicacy, and in the end we want them all to find a satisfactory compromise. We root for a respectful neutrality, an ability to agree to disagree. After all, don’t we each grow up trying to beat our own path in life, rebelling against all we’ve been taught, and believing what our own minds and hearts tell us is correct?

Indian blogger Jabberwock has a long, positive review of Karma and Other Stories, and concludes:

[N]one of these stories amount to pat generalisations about a community of people. Yes, they all deal with Indians living and adjusting in the US; in fact, one can particularise this further and observe that they are mostly about members of a Telugu community in relatively less cosmopolitan places in the US (so much so that some characters recur from one story to the next; the effect is like being at a cosy fireside chat where a narrator is telling us anecdotes from the lives of people we’ve seen in our neighborhood). But one can also step back, look at the larger picture and observe that these are believable human beings, facing different types of conflicts and responding in different ways.

Here is an interview with Rishi Reddi from Small Spiral Notebook, and here is a downloadable interview from Harper Perennial.

EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY by Joanna Scott

If you’re in the mood for some short stories, here’s a collection I came across about a year ago: Everybody Loves Somebody, by Joanna Scott.

ScottAccording to The Washington Post, Everyody Loves Somebody is "mostly about men, women or children who have lost their way — hapless unfortunates as frail as minnows in the tumbling ocean.  They possess neither control nor knowledge of their own lives. They are perishable. They — or their forlorn little hopes — often perish."

Sounds depressing, I know. The Post says, "Taken together, these stories are overwhelmingly melancholy."  But a different Post reviewer says, "Scott excels at creating subtle methods of foreboding that, regardless of whether they come to fruition, will keep you enrapt."

Another review on Bestsellersworld.com agrees that this book is engaging:

As you read each story they will hold you in awe because they are so different from anything else you might have read. The author does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the story and draws the reader in from the beginning and continues to captivate them from there. As I read each story, I felt like I was being taking to a different dimension – almost like the old ‘Twilight Zone’ shows. If you are looking for something to captivate you and for stories that are quite different from your normal everyday read, this is the book for you.

And finally, from Entertainment Weekly:

Reading the vivid, elliptical Joanna Scott’s superb new stories in Everybody Loves Somebody is like observing humanity through a sensitive surveillance camera. In ”The Lucite Cane,” Scott takes snapshots of drivers at a traffic light, then moves to a park, then a seedy grocery, then a bar, picking up narrative snippets tangentially related to an old man with a cane. The title story follows a businessman as he drives through the dark, making a series of loopy mental calculations. In Scott’s off-kilter tales, life is governed by chance, we are less logical than we think, and the world is full of mystery.

Has anyone read this book yet?