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Song of the Cuckoo Bird
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Song of the Cuckoo Bird

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  430 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A sweeping epic set in southern India, where a group of outcasts create a family while holding tight to their dreams.

Barely a month after she is promised in marriage, eleven-year-old orphan Kokila comes to Tella Meda, an ashram by the Bay of Bengal. Once there, she makes a courageous yet foolish choice that alters the fabric of her life: Instead of becoming a wife and mot
ebook, 400 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Ballantine Books (first published December 27th 2005)
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My treasured mother recommended this book!!! There are so many things I love about this book the first of all that it is set in INDIA!!! Generally I find books set in India and written by Indian authors wonderful and this was no exception.

What else did I love? It is set in a Ashram with a female guru. The Ashram is run by the bizarre father of the guru and how he impacts each of the inhabitants is fascinating. Each woman is located at the ashram because of less than perfect circumstances and wat
One of the best books I've read so far this year. I just loved this book from the first line to the end, though the end was a bit bizarre. I loved the house, the disjoint characters, the way they live together and help each other inspite of glaring differences between their temperaments and circumstances - I would like to reread this book and I would definitely recommend this to anyone and every one. These sort of stories are my forte - where nothing much happens, days pass by and people do the ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Reena rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Reena by: Karen
The most heartbreaking thing about this book is the plot and chracters have so much potential which I felt was not realized in the execution of the story. They were only tapped into in the most banal and contrived way that did not bring out the magic inherent in a story like this. In the way that Jhumpa Lahiri or Kiran Desai really understand how to deliver, Malladi does not.
Emily Crow
Song of the Cuckoo Bird provides a glimpse into Indian daily life and social change, through the eyes of the women who inhabit Tella Meda, a house in village by the Bay of Bengal. The story revolves around three women in particular: Kokila, an orphan; Chetana, a prostitute's daughter; and Charvi, believed by some to be a guru.

The history of Tella Meda begins when Ramanandam, a writer who is controversial for his views on women's equality, thinks he recognizes signs of holiness in one of his daug
Well written, great story, with very personable characters and plot line. I liked the time lapse between chapters, and historical details woven it. It made the passage of ~50 years much easier to grasp and work with the story. The only issue I had was that some of the chapters re-summarized what happened the chapter before to explain the actions of a character. This is somewhat repetitive since you read the actual details a few pages before. Other than that, I enjoyed the book.
A novel covering a span from the late 1950s up until the early 2000s, about a group of people (mostly women) living in an ashram in Andhra Pradesh, India. The main character (sort of; the narrative switches focus between a lot of people) is Kokila, who first comes to the ashram when she's 11 years old, waiting for her arranged marriage to go through; instead, she ends up spending her life there, having an affair with an old man, taking over the running of the business side of the ashram, briefly ...more
I would rate this 2.5 stars. It's a story of the people who by chance end up living in an ashram with one woman who has been given the status of a goddess. The dynamics between the characters is interesting and spans many decades, but it lacks some emotional depth, so it is not in the league of Indian writers like Mistry and Umigar. I would however, read other novels by this writer to see how her writing develops.
Prital Nicholls
All about the lives of women over the course if 50 odd years who live in a ashram in india. I love reading book about India and thus enjoyed it . A good insight into South Indian customs.I think more could have been made of the characters and some events in the story leave un answered questions and don't add to it. All in all an enjoyable read but not a favourite.
Katie M.
I liked the idea of this book much more than the book itself - the prose is pretty painful, all tell and no show. But still, for the idea of it - and the potential of what this book could have been - it gets a dubious 3 stars.
I hate to review this book with only 2 stars, but... I found this book a bit hard to read. I think the book was well written, the characters all well developed, and the story well developed. But the story lacked a certain "magic" that so many other Indian writers have in their stories (i.e. Thrity Umrigar). It took me a while to figure out why I was finding the book such a slow read. It was like running through water, but reading in such a manner. Am I really only halfway through? There are stil ...more
The book is intense in the description, narration and story. Many lives intertwine, and the voice of the author changes between characters of the highly entrenched Tella meda (or white bungalow)
The many, mostly female characters come together as a makeshift family and function as most of the families do. With care, concern, jealousy and together.

It is a story of one particular woman, Kokila, and her relationships with all living under that roof, as she grows from a young 11 year old to a middl
What a beautiful read!!! After Rice Mother, I was cringing at the idea of reading another miserable intergenerational saga (Rice mother was beautifully written but miserably tragic at every turn). The sad lives of those at Tella Meda were in the end not so tragic... I love how they still ended up experiencing life. Amulya's portrayal of Charvi was splendid- I felt like she was real because she was so hard to completely like or dislike. Chetana was the life that kept the book light in tragic mome ...more
Betty Strohecker
This is a story of a group of outcasts who create a family of their own to survive in southern India. Spanning the 1940's to present day, it is interesting, informative, and at times heartbreaking.
the book was ok, some good, some slow.. it was a good read to pass the time, but nothing i would recommend.. not sure why the reviews were so good!
One of those unexpected finds that makes ploughing through all the other mediocre rubbish worthwhile. This novel is entirely original, touching and enlightening. At eleven years old, Kokila makes a decision than sets her aside from other girls and changes her life forever. This is about unconventional relationships, the role of women in society and the changing face of India. It is what it is like to be different, to choose a way of life that sets you apart. I found this totally engrossing.
I love to read about stories about women in other cultures/times and see how even though we live in completely different worlds, there are similarities. The women in this book make choices that shape their lives and by the end I felt like they had wasted so much. They had the potential to make so much more of their lives and as they get older, they realize how unfulfilled their lives have been. I was sad for the characters, but the writing was great.
A tale of an ashram that is home to a set of characters (mostly women) that are cast off by society or have nowhere else to go. An interesting glimpse into life in India and the roles people are forced into because of caste and their life experiences. A true picture of the strength of the human spirit; even those whose lives seem hopeless are able to hold onto hope in their hearts and seek one of the most basic human needs: happiness.
Too many characters and too much going on. 2.5 stars.
Jul 10, 2007 suzy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like historical fiction of India
I especially liked the historical footnotes at the beginning of each chapter, to put things in context. The characters mean comments to each other thoughout the book were often so outrageous that they distracted from the overall story. It was sometiems upsetting to read how mean they were, and if this hadn't been the case I'd have given the book 4 stars.
Set in Andhra Pradesh, India... the writing in the book is good. Some of the characters were good. The author tried to bring up some social issues, where she could have done it better.

There were many errors in the historical facts, which can be misleading. The author should add a note to clarify/correct them.
This book started out a little slow but kept me interested from start to finish. A story about a group of people living in an ashram (spiritual center) in a small town in India that become a family and help one another through the ups, but mostly downs, of life.
Caroline Donaldson
I loves this book. Not what you'd call an action plot, but a lovely evocation of the lives of some Indian women who have suffered misfortune, yet who in the end tend to prevail. I'd recommend it. Easy to read.
I enjoyed my decades with the women (and a few men) of a south Indian ashram. Interesting characters coming there or leaving there or failing to leave there. I'll read some more of her.
Pretty good story about women and choices made.
Took me a little longer than usual to finish this book. I think I had a difficult start but it got much easier as I progressed.
This is a novel, but the stories about the girls/women are so true. Since I grew up in Indian, the book gave me so much appreciation for where I am now.
I am in love with this author. The way she writes about Indian culture and the beautiful interactions between her characters. It is wonderful.
Ginny Shepley
I am really liking this author, I like the way she plays with the chapters beginnings. Her characters are strong.
Indian Contemp....1959-1999 India....Life in an ashram. People come, people go, few stay.
Interesting read, slow pace, the house was just as much a character.
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I am the author of five novels published by The Random House Publishing Group. Born and raised in India, I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree in journalism – and now write books and in my free time, work as a marketer at a medical device company. I have lived in four countries, 10 cities, about 14 different houses since I left India seventeen years ago and met my husband. C ...more
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