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Red Earth and Pouring Rain

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  2,075 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
Combining Indian myths, epic history, and the story of three college kids in search of America, a narrative includes the monkey's story of an Indian poet and warrior and an American road novel of college students driving cross-country.
Paperback, 542 pages
Published March 1st 1997 by Back Bay Books (first published 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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The main things this book had going for it:
• Stories within stories within stories. You might get lost like I did, but I found I didn’t really care about what level I was in as long as the stories kept unrolling and enrapturing me;
• Beautiful, vivid and lyrical language: descriptive, character-illuminating, sometimes philosophical;
• A typewriting monkey! I mean, a TYPEWRITING MONKEY!

So the stories -- lots of stories -– form a Scheherazade-style framework with the monkey telling tales to both vi
Don Dada
Nov 22, 2007 Don Dada rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
A young man returns to India after going to college in Los Angeles. While tangled in a web of identity issues, the young man shoots a monkey that had stolen his levis ( symbolism anyone?). This is a big no-no in their neck of the woods and the young man's family rushes to save the monkey.

While nursing the monkey back to health, it becomes clear that the shooting had flipped a switch in the monkey that allows him to remember his past life as a poet. The monkey proceeds to climb up to the typewrit
Jul 27, 2009 Bethany rated it really liked it
The multiple stories in this truly epic novel make it a hard one to follow yet even h arder to put down. For a westerner quite unfamiliar with Indian culture, I was constnatly researching India's history, language, cuisine, gods, castes, and religion as I moved through this story. However - it was brilliant. The time spent researching to understand was quite worth it, and the information I gained in the process I should have already had. The story is brilliant, told for the most part by an ancie ...more
Jennifer Rhodes Wynne
Nov 12, 2007 Jennifer Rhodes Wynne rated it it was amazing
This book holds a special place in my heart. My husband brought this to book on our first date...when ever I see it or re-read it I think of that night.
Jeffrey Mervosh
This book is an endeavor. Written largely as a story-within-a-story, Red Earth and Pouring Rain relates the tales of two story-tellers - one, an Indian poet reincarnated in the form of a red monkey (whose human consciousness emerges after an accident), and the other, a newly-returned student sent to the United States for university. The two stories leapfrog back and forth, with each being told a chapter at a time. They tell the coming of age of two vastly different characters in vastly different ...more
Jan 30, 2009 planetkimi rated it it was ok
Red Earth and Pouring Rain is a whirlwind of a book, and a heavy whirlwind at that. The book itself is weighty, and its contents are jammed full of an overwhelming amount of characters.

I had trouble remembering who did what, what the effect was, and how things influenced each other later. So to me, it seemed in parts like one random thing happening after another.

I really enjoyed the first third or so of the book, and then I think things all started to jumble together. I think I finally lost tra
Jul 20, 2010 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abhay comes home to India after studying in America, and he shoots a monkey that's been bothering the family for years. Wounded, they take the monkey in and nurse it, hopefully back to health. The monkey starts having flashbacks and realizes that it's a reincarnation of his former human self. the God of Death, Yama appears to the monkey, aka Sanjay in his former life, and wants to take him but Hanuman, the God of monkeys appears when he's appealed to by Sanjay. They strike a bargain and if Sanja ...more
Heather Knight
Mar 16, 2008 Heather Knight rated it liked it
This book is epic in scope, a story within a story, within a story sort of construction. The basic premise is that Sanjay, re-incarnated as a typewriting monkey, needs to spend two hours every day entertaining an ever-growing crowd of listeners with the story of his life, lest he be taken by Yama, god of death. He is helped in this endeavor mostly by Abhay, home from college, Abhay's parents, and a young neighbor girl.

So, knowing that the main character is a monkey who can type, there's obvious
Apr 27, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
Chandra is an amazing storyteller. I will say that I picked this book up in college and quickly set it down as I did not get many (most) of the Indian references. After visiting India (even for a short period of time), it was no longer an issue. I think understanding the references is key to enjoying this book. After that, sit back and let the stories unroll. Don't try to "get through it" because that can be rough. Let the story be told as he tells it-- some moments are slow or pieces are interr ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Ben rated it liked it
Confession: I didn't get all the way through this, despite my huge admiration of Chandra's talents. This book has one of the best first chapters I've read, and is intermittently brilliant thereafter. But it's so maddeningly uneven that I found it gradually more exhausting than enjoyable.

This was his first novel, so it's no surprise that Chandra may not have been in full control of his powers yet. His follow-up story collection, Love and Longing in Bombay, is much more assured.
Jan 24, 2011 Angela rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I kind of feel like Vikram Chandra said to himself 'what do I want to read? what do I want to see happen in a story?' then gathered every idea he had ever had and smooshed it into a book. He covers every single genre in one way or another and at times it is so compacted that I couldnt remember who people were and why they were there so had to browse back through the first third of the book. At times it was very wordy, almost unnecessarily so, and I didnt think it was actually needed. Abhay's sto ...more
Sep 19, 2009 Jenny rated it it was amazing
These things are known about this novel: epic scope, stories-within-stories, modern US subjects, and the history of India. More deeply, it explores the British invasion/influence/damage and how so many stereotypes perpetuated by Europeans persist today. Even more deeply, the fictional characters brought to life by Chandra are fascinating and human in every way. The art of story telling is treated with the greatest respect. Some of the Hindu gods appear as characters themselves--some delightful, ...more
Manas Saloi
Sep 28, 2015 Manas Saloi rated it really liked it
Interesting read. A lot of characters and drags on a little in the middle but ends quite well.
Bob Shaw`
Jun 28, 2011 Bob Shaw` rated it it was amazing
I read this book slowly, savoring each exquisite page, turning back frequently to put people in their proper places. Who is telling this story, a story within a story within another story. I investigated Indian history to further understand the narrative. The book was work, invigorating work. Finally I finished. I picked up my next book, but each morning I set aside some time and started reading Red Earth and Pouring Rain again, even more slowly this time, relishing and luxuriating in the many l ...more
May 06, 2011 Carmen rated it really liked it
I have finished this book and I must say I did enjoy it. Since I would not always read it on consecutive days I found some of his chapters a little confusing. He also talks about certain customs typical of India, or ceremonies, food, etc., without any kind of an explanation probably considering that everyone knows what he is talking about. If a computer is available one can look for the information on the internet but what happens when this is not available? I find that many Indian writers assum ...more
May 23, 2015 caroline rated it did not like it
I love a good, epic tale and read a lot of Indian fiction so I had high hopes for this novel. However, I really struggled with it. The intertwining stories, one within another within another, were extremely difficult to follow, and like other reviewers, i couldn't remember which character was which. The lack of characterisation made it hard to care what happened, and the rambling, disconnected stories made it very hard work.
The whole premise of the book is that, in order to prevent Yama taking t
Elke de Echte
Apparently the stories contained in Red Earth and Pouring Rain were written during writing programs spreading several years, while Vikram Chandra was equally juggling in different jobs. Is this noticeable throughout the disparity of multiple characters? Or does the storytelling – notwithstanding its remarkable colour and clamour – suffer from the common debutant mistake of wanting to show off too many tricks (making it hard to follow the general gist). Either way, characters intertwine at a spir ...more
Aug 17, 2016 Lester rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my second attempt at this book. The first time round, I gave up in about 20 pages at the unbelievability of a monkey telling mythical stories.

This time, I felt the lyrics and poetic rhythm behind the book. Chandra tells stories within stories within stories. Soon, I was immersed in all the stories, and how they eventually intertwined. The mythical character of some of the stories helped the lyricism. The book became to me about purpose, about belonging, about karma, about societal and i
Narmeen N
Jan 20, 2015 Narmeen N rated it really liked it
Vikram Chandra starts off this book like any lunatic would. Starts off with a story and then weaves out another story from there. He does this a few times until you forget how many layers of stories you've just passed. At this point you realize this author is definitely off his medication and should not be allowed to publish his own books. Some of the stories are riveting, some are blah, but after a good 200 pages of this book, you're hooked. Hooked on Chandras brilliance, his imagination, his w ...more
The book was disappointing in the sense that it seemed detached from its own story line. I wish it was not the case.

Nevertheless I am pretty much hopeful about Sacred Games by this author which I plan to read in the future.
Sunny Az
Apr 08, 2016 Sunny Az rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic. Vikram Chandra is a man who understands the storytelling traditions of both India and the West very deeply. This book is a rare work of art in that it functions equally well if you analyse it either from Western or Eastern principles of aesthetics. As a person who's spent a great deal of time both in India and Western nations, none of this book felt inauthentic to me. Some might call this book "Magical Realism", it's more like that it keeps with a tradition of Indian storyt ...more
Alex Tilley
Apr 12, 2010 Alex Tilley rated it it was amazing
Easily my favourite book by an Indian author. Beautifully evocative magic realism epic of Indian mythology grounded brilliantly by a modern subplot. If I still had a copy I would read it again right now.
Oct 31, 2013 Meg rated it did not like it
Shelves: fake-book-club
No. Not my thing.
Sep 07, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-popsugar-rc
-2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book about a roadtrip

This is a hard book to rate; described as an 'epic sweep,' 'huge, magical, cinematic,' a 'contemporary Thousand and One Nights.' These seem to be apt descriptions to me, but I would add a few (listed later).

Red Earth and Pouring Rain starts off with an Indian college student, returned home to India from the United States. One of the first things he does is shoot a monkey that routinely steals from his family in exchange for food (returning
Sharayu Gangurde
I could not bring myself to read this book. I rarely read fiction and when I do, it's hard for me to gulp concepts of yama, death, mythological characters springing up and down the sentences. This was the most disappointing read of 2015. Me and my girl pal were excited to read a book whose title drew such a beautiful imagery in our heads and so I gifted her a copy along with buying one for myself. By the time I went home I had read about 40 pages during the train journey. The entire plot of a mo ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Noreen rated it it was amazing
A mischievous monkey steals a pair of jeans from the clothesline of a USC student just returning home in India for break. His mother is convinced her house is being visited by gods and their yard becomes a site of pilgrimage. Thus begins a multitude of stories within histories within stories. We meet gods and warriors, proud mothers of countries, talking animals and superstitious relatives. My favorite device is one word to look out for to help keep track of where you are: "Listen." Great storyt ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Dotty rated it really liked it
Wonderful, magical, confusing, funny, lyrical and difficult -
Here's a better review than mine:

Setting 18th- and 19th-century Mogul India against the open highways of contemporary America and fusing Indian myth, Hindu gods, magic and mundane reality, this intricate first novel is a magnificent epic that welds the exfoliating storytelling style of A Thousand and One Nights to modernist fictional technique. Abhay, an Indian college student studying in the U.S. but home on vacation in Bombay, shoot
Aug 08, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it
An 18th century Hindu poet-warrior is reincarnated as a monkey in modern day India. The monkey, Sanjay, cannot speak but can type; he is saved from Yama (Death) by Hanuman, a god who survives forever as long as people tell stories about him and keep his memory alive. Hanuman and Yama come to a compromise - Sanjay can live if he tells a story for 2 hours, during which no more than 1/2 the audience can be bored for greater than 5min.

Very little of the book is set in modern day India or the US (thi
Also reviewed @ http://love-affair-with-books.blogspo...

I have made it to page 70 and am not prepared to read any further.

What I have read is basically utter crap. Sacred Games- the author's second book was fantastic, completely the opposite to this relating to the llves of Police Officers and Gangsters. Very easy to grasp, this book, I couldn't tell you what it is supposed to be about because it literally turns into several stories within another and basically not very good stories at that.
It s
Oct 28, 2014 Neha rated it did not like it
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Vikram Chandra was born in New Delhi.

He completed most of his secondary education at Mayo College, a boarding school in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After a short stay at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, Vikram came to the United States as an undergraduate student.

In 1984, he graduated from Pomona College (in Claremont, near Los Angeles) with a magna cum laude BA in English, with a concentration in creative w
More about Vikram Chandra...

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“Ask him why there are hypocrites in the world.'
'Because it is hard to bear the happiness of others.'
'When are we happy?'
'When we desire nothing and realize that possession is only momentary, and so are forever playing.'
'What is regret?'
'To realize that one has spent one's life worrying about the future.'
'What is sorrow?'
'To long for the past.'
'What is the highest pleasure?'
'To hear a good story.”
“And so I began to read,' Sorkar said. 'And at first the complete works were like a jungle, the language was quicksand. Metaphors turned beneath my feet and became biting snakes, similes fled from my grasp like frightened deer, taking all meaning with them. All was alien, and amidst the hanging, entangling creepers of this foreign grammar, all sound became a cacophany. I feared for myself, for my health and sanity, but then I thought of my purpose, of where I was and who I was, of pain and I pressed on.” 12 likes
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