Arminzerella's Reviews > Karma

Karma by Cathy Ostlere
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** spoiler alert ** Maya/Jiva is 15 years old when her mother (Mata) commits suicide. She and her father (Bapu) bring her mother’s ashes back to India to be scattered, but while they are there religious riots break out in New Delhi (Hindus are murdering Sikhs), and Maya and her father are forced to flee. They become separated and Maya witnesses some atrocities (a man being burned alive), which affect her so profoundly that she is unable (or unwilling) to speak. She is taken in by a family in a rural part of the country, but the small, superstitious community there accuses her of witchcraft and they are forced to send her away. Sandeep, who has fallen in love with her during their brief time together, protects Maya as they are guided across the desert. When Sandeep learns that their guide has his own plans for Maya, the two teens escape and return to the city to search for her father. What Maya cannot know is how her father has suffered in her absence and how he will respond when they are reunited.

This historical novel in verse is profoundly sad. Maya’s parents’ relationship is what Romeo and Juliet’s might have been had they been allowed to marry and then realized they had major incompatibilities. And the problems don’t end there. After his inflexibility and intolerance make Mata’s life unbearable, Bapu continues to cling to his rigid beliefs – religious and otherwise – adding to his daughter’s despair. It seems they will never be able to break free from their cyclical misery. The vivid colors and culture of India are tarnished by religious violence – and despite the efforts of a few individuals to make things right, it seems a terrifying place filled with cruel and apathetic people. There is some hope that the suffering Maya and her father endure is not in vain, that it has taught them something and brought them closer together, but whether Bapu can forgive and forget (and more importantly, grow) remains to be seen. Penned in parts by both Maya and Sandeep, the format lends itself well to its subject. Still, some readers may be overwhelmed by the relentless barrage of bad stuff – it’s a bit of a downer.

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Reading Progress

11/22/2011 page 56
11.0% "So far, this is kind of a downer..."

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