Lauren's Reviews > Haunting Bombay

Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal
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May 20, 2012

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Read from May 16 to 18, 2012

This book engaged me, but it also drove me batty. In 1960 Bombay, thirteen-year-old Pinky Mittal unlocks a forbidden room in her family’s home, unleashing a ghost and forcing her family to face events that occurred thirteen years before. Descriptions weigh down the narrative, going well beyond what is needed to describe life in Bombay to a Western audience. It’s so detailed that it seems almost patronizing, and several times I found myself thinking, ‘Yes, I get it, it’s a different culture, now can we please get to the story?’ This is especially true in the beginning, which would probably be half as long if not for the excessive detail. Now, the good part about all the detail is that it makes it difficult to figure out what information does and does not matter to the larger narrative, which makes the plot twists more unexpected. Despite all of the detail, though, the ending is sloppy – still full of detail, but lacking the punch I expected. All those descriptions and biographies stand in for meaningful character development and growth and pad what is, at its heart, a fairly weak plot. At the end of the day, it’s a book about carefully messed-up people leading carefully messed-up lives, and while Haunting Bombay has good moments, I dislike books that use dysfunction and pretty words as a way to make a book seem serious. Quasi-recommended.
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