God and the Details

This is the book that kicked The Hotel New Hampshire off of the top of my favorite book list. I’ve never read any book like it, though touches of Rushdie came to mind once in awhile. But unlike Rushdie, whose plots are often complicated and far flung in scope, …Small Things is simple in its story, intimate and generous with the details.

It tells itself through the eyes of two children, the two-egg fraternal twins, a gentle, sensitive boy named Estha, and  Rahel, a spirited, willfull girl. Their world is elastically drawn open and shut as the adults in their lives march through the important issues of  racism, religion, the caste system, and communism in India until finally, the supporting social structure can no longer tolerate the slighted social taboos by the adults in the story any longer, and this world finally folds for everyone irreparably, forever.

But the real pull of this book is in its details, delicate and and innocent; playful, as children are. Secret meanings in words. Flexible, magical language.  Unspoken understandings.  Details as fleeting as the children’s diminishing innocence as the story unfolds itself to its disturbing end. Innocence is never, ever, recovered, only destroyed or deserted. Lost. Any attempt at recovery is merely a pale and flimsy facsimile that grows only into something tragic,  pathetic,  or grotesque with advancing years. And here it’s no different.

If I were to write a book, I would write everything I ever needed to say, and move on to something else, as Ms. Roy seems to have done after writing The God of Small Things with her activism. But even so, I can’t help hoping that some important issue or story taps her on the shoulder urgently and persuasively, and prods her into writing another piece of fiction. I miss her.

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