May 17, 11
Read from April 09 to May 17, 2011
** spoiler alert **
I have always been fascinated by India's extraordinarily rich history and totally foreign-seeming culture, so the detailed description of the different areas of the country helped satisfy some desire to visit India, without the expense or running the risk of contracting a disease (which sounds like a real risk). I also appreciated the author's sensitivity to some of the fine nuances of social interaction with Indians and in viewing their interactions together--how they treated her and how they were different with each other, I guess is what I saying. Her prose shows an intelligent attention to detail.
It is unfortunate that I do not like the author as a person, because I think it's necessary at some point to empathize with her in order to really enjoy this memoir. She presents herself as a bad-ass, independent woman, but in the end, I think she's an emotionally needy, insecure mess who wears her past career success on her sleeve as if it's the only identity she's ever known. The general whining tone and desperate search for meaning and direction in her life become a framework which mars this otherwise fascinating information about Indian. She seems to hate India while demanding that it fulfill all of her personal needs, and I don't think any country could be asked to do that. The more objective descriptions are my favorite, but they are few and far between by the end. When we are trapped in her head dealing with her quest for the meaning of life, it's just tedious.
But here's my favorite part of reading this book: I just learned a whole lot more about India. And I can't get it out of my mind--how do I make sense of a country that allows people to live like this? And what kind of person could possibly stand it? What makes such blatant disregard for human life acceptable? As an American, I obviously can't figure it out, but there must be some awareness and dialog about this in India, and about why these ancient social systems are still in place.