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The Prayer Room

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3.15 of 5 stars 3.15  ·  rating details  ·  111 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In 1974, the young and callow Englishman George Armitage goes to Madras in the hopes of returning with at least the beginning of his Ph.D. dissertation. Instead, he comes home with a bride named Viji, an Indian woman he barely knows. This seemingly unlikely pair eventually wind up in Sacramento, where they buy a ranch house and give birth to triplets.

In this new American w
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Hardcover, 375 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by MacAdam/Cage
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Sharonewoods
Two stars may be a little harsh, because this is a first novel and the author does have some good phrasing. But I couldn't help thinking this novel was published because some editor said "Quick! Books about Indian immigrants are in! Find something to publish now!" The book isn't bad per se, but the themes have already been tread. Professor husband, Indian bride, nice but boring house in the California burbs. Healthy, good-looking and well behaved kids. Conflict simmers under the surface, but not ...more
Shannon
Although this novel has been grouped in with the many other Indian diaspora-type fiction of recent years, I'm not sure that's where it belongs. Although the protagonist is a Madras native transplanted to California, the book doesn't really focus on that except as plot and perhaps as embellishment. At its heart it's more of a psychological novel than cultural commentary. It's a study of a marriage, and it reads, feels, and flows a lot like an Anne Tyler novel. The protagonists drift through their ...more
Helene
Mar 08, 2009 Helene rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Helene by: Writers' Digest
Just finished this book a little under two weeks--it's a complex story, and I felt satisfaction with the ending. This is Ms. Sekaran's first published novel, and I applaud her for the well-written work.

Some parts of the book that could have been improved/expanded upon (I mention these over at my blog as well:

- Ultimately, the story seemed more about Viji than anyone else, but the POV shifts from character to character at times. I liked the omnipotent narrator, being able to go through each major
...more
Charles Matthews
This question may sound a bit churlish, but sometimes it's a reviewer's duty to ask churlish questions: With writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee and Chitra Divakaruni among us, do we really need yet another novel about culture clash in the Indian diaspora? The simple answer is yes, when the novel is as engagingly written and sharply observed as Shanthi Sekaran's The Prayer Room. On the other hand, the genre – the novel of exile -- has begun to engender a certain feeling of déjà vu (or ...more
Jessica
I was very, very bored with this book. The subject matter SOUNDED like something I might be interested in, but in the end the story just fell totally flat for me.

Every now and again I came across a line that I found striking; it was not the author's writing that I objected to, but the story just didn't do it for me. I honestly didn't care even a little bit what happened to any of the characters. I continued to read because I hate starting a book and not finishing it, and it's the rare book I fi
...more
Sarah
I came across this book while hunting in the library for a new and entertaining novel to read to keep my mind off the discomfort in my body in 1st trimester of pregnancy. Guess what? It worked! I literally cold NOT put this book down...LOVING the way the author described the inner and outer life of these characters. In fact, it led me to read the following books on Indian culture and immigrating to other countries (see The Namesake and The Twentieth Wife). Both of the authors I read following Se ...more
Susy
After working with some South Indian women who shared lots of their culture with me, I've been drawn to the "American Desi" experience. And when I learned of this book & that its author had grown up in Carmichael, Ca - a Sacramento suburb I felt compelled to read this first novel. It was just ok; it was fun to read about familiar places and locales but the story didn't really offer anything new to the first generation Indian American experience. I learned a bit about places in India that wer ...more
Kris
It took me a while to like Viji (the main character), but at the end, I thought she was thoughtful enough and intelligent enough to handle the all of the situations in her life. I'm not sure what to make of the other characters, including George, Stan and Kamla. The relationships in the book are all very complicated, and the story seems to be told with a lot underneath the surface. I did enjoy Sekaran's writing. The book kept me involved and went quickly. Overall, though, I feel like the story d ...more
Marie
A young English scholar returns to England with a bride he doesn't even know instead of the PH.D dissertation. He takes a teaching job in Sacramento CA and his bride learn a new way of living and trying to keep up with triplets. She takes refuge in her "Prayer Room" and talks to her deceased relatives and friends and prays. She goes back to visit India and finally finds out secrets about her family and comes to terms about her upbringing. Then returns to California to continue her life with her ...more
Shimi
I thought this was an absolutely beautiful book. The writing is wonderful, with surprising humor. The story of an immigrant Indian and her displacement isn't new, but the way the author tells it is new, and there are some twists to the story that make it unique and interesting. I found myself immediately drawn into the story within a few pages. I would recommend this book.
Andrea
A bit slow but there are some high points throughout as the main characters remember (and explain) earlier parts of their lives. Enjoyed the ending but wish some aspects were elaborated on more.
Carew
This is written by a friend of Aaron's from his Sacramento childhood. I'm only a few pages in, but I'm loving it. The end isn't quite a good as the beginning, but still a fun read.
Laura
Feb 01, 2010 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: literature lovers
Recommended to Laura by: my own find @ Books Inc.
Wonderful writing -- evokes all the senses. Knobby characters. Look for more from this terrific writer. Good book club book: accessible, yet literary.
Cooee
I think I will probably never forget the bit about George and his pencils. Shanthi Sekaran very nearly made me want to *be* a pencil!
Aleem Najak
Really well written..authors own voice takes over in places>viji
Barb

I really liked the way she writes...the words just flow off the pages. I was disappointed with the ending!
Marianne
I really enjoyed this book. I was able to empathize will all the characters. It was a fun relaxing read.
Marge
Thought it would be better. Some parts were good but all of the characters got on my nerves at some point.
Subha
The writing was good but the plot and characters themselves were a yawn. I struggled to finish the book.
Lea
I wanted to like this book but just didn't get it. I found myself saying "what?!" and "HUH?" several times.
Grace
I did not enjoy the book. I thought it held a lot of promise, but was dissapointed in the book.
Lu
Feb 25, 2010 Lu marked it as to-read
Shelves: immigrant, children
immigrant wife/mom of triplets finds solace in home shrine consulting with ancestors
Beth
I am a sucker for books covers that show a woman or girl's feet and/or shoes.
Karen
I didn't like any of the characters.
Melissa
I enjoyed this book very much.
Teresa Morris
Teresa Morris marked it as to-read
Mar 22, 2015
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See www.shanthisekaran.com for more reviews, an audio reading, and more...
Shanthi Sekaran was born and raised in California, and now splits her time between Berkeley and London. A graduate of UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, she was first published in Best New American Voices 2004 (Harcourt). Her novel, The Prayer Room, will be released in February 2009. "
More about Shanthi Sekaran...

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“Like most children, she came into the world assuming everyone was good, and spent the rest of her life discovering otherwise.” 1 likes
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