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The Rice Mother

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,669 ratings  ·  558 reviews
Nothing in Lakshmi's childhood, running carefree and barefoot on the sun-baked earth amid the coconut and mango trees of Ceylon, could have prepared her for what life was to bring her. At fourteen, she finds herself traded in marriage to a stranger across the ocean in the fascinating land of Malaysia.

Duped into thinking her new husband is wealthy, she instead finds hersel
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2002)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  5,669 ratings  ·  558 reviews

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Dana Ilie
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub
The Rice Mother is a strong and powerful work that takes readers into the lives of people of diaspora in Malaya, their cultures, customs, religion, culinary delights, all interwoven with their lives and fate during the course of the last century. Filled with characters and events, Rani Manicka’s debut novel is indicative of the start of a successful writing career.
It is a story with a lot of sadness, but it keeps the attention of the reader until the very end. It is a tale of choices that peop
Yosita Oramahi
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After two full days, I finally finished reading Rani Manicka's debut novel, The Rice Mother. So intense is the storyline, I found myself clenching my fist and gritting my teeth from time to time as I breathed in the wonderful storytelling. Love, betrayal, anger, sorrow, hope, denial, happiness, longing, despair, deceit, infedility, honesty, pain and a thousand other emotions are spun and woven beautifully in this 580 page work of art, spanning a period of 85 years over 4 generations. It's been a ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Life had yet to teach me that a child’s love can never equal a mother’s pain.

A fast-paced family saga depicting life in Malaysia through four generations. The author does an amazing job showing the change in lifestyle and culture over an 85 year period. The first and last chapter could almost feel like different books if it weren’t for the recurring themes. I thought the cast of characters were beautifully described and I loved that none of them were perfect. I hated Rani, my heart broke for poo
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think this must be, for me, the Malaysian equivalent of A Thousand Splendid Suns.

A dense, poetic, evocative, sensual, lush, decadent story. This was a heavy read at times, with much savagery and tragedy within, but Manicka drew me wholly into the intoxicating world of Malaysia.

This debut novel was an addictive page turner for the parts which deal with Lakshmi's forced marriage and the births of her 6 children, and then the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War Two. Selfishly, I wis
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it liked it
In short, this book is gut-wrenching. Truly a tough read, the telling of a family's dreadful prophecy and its lengthy unfolding over multiple generations.

At its best, it's a tribute to the tenacity of "powerless" women, the child brides of history who accepted their fates and challenges. At its best, it lends a voice to powerless women of traditional societies.

It also delivers on Asian folklore. Manicka has a great talent for writing beautiful sentences.

That said, I found it tedious. The only th
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is about four generations of a family in Malaysia. Lakshmi, from Ceylon, is duped into marrying Ayah. He portrays himself as a wealthy man. But everything is an illusion even down to the borrowed gold watch. Ayah is a civil servant who while kindly and loving is a plodding unintelligent man. Lakshmi has 6 children by the time she is nineteen. She makes friends with the Chinese servant girl next door, Mui Tsai. Mui is forced to have sex with her master and each child is given to a diffe ...more
Apr 23, 2011 rated it liked it
There is nothing new about a storyline that takes a woman with no education, no experience in the world who winds up either a widow or with a wastrel husband, a brood and no means of support for her family. It's been done by male and female writers, it's been played out in every possible kind of setting and time period from ancient Roman households to Mayberry. So as an author if you're going to take that crumbly old plot and make it the center of your novel you had better be able to pony up som ...more
May 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I could not believe that this one is a debut novel. This author has quite a promising career. The book gripped me from the beginning and never let go.

The family saga spanning about 80 years in time beginning in the 1920s is told from the perspective of many different family members spanning four generations. I loved that way of telling the story of this family set in Malaysia dealing with all of their adversities (and they had many) including the Japanese occupation during WWII. But later it is
May 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Lovely novel - I love to travel through my books...

When I don't have enough money to buy a ticket to a far away place, or when the times I wish to visit have already passed a long time ago, I open a book and read. This book took me to Malaysia, into the lives of three generations of women who struggle to make ends meet and raise their families. A beautiful story about love and war, mango trees and spiced rice.

Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was up and down for me almost the entire time, sometimes within the same page. I think it could have used a better editor, perhaps, to hone in on the heart of the story and trim off the distractions flapping 'round the edges.

My main problem, which might not be entirely fair, is that this read like a poor rendition of The Poisonwood Bible, in terms of theme and the devices used to tell the story. It was a multiple narrator novel, with the narrator's name as the chapter title. The troubl
The Rice Mother starts with the story of Lakshmi, a young, carefree Sri Lankan girl whose world is turned upside down when, at fourteen, she is married off to a much older man from Malaysia under the pretext of riches and luxury.

Duped but refusing to cower down, Lakshmi faces her struggles bravely, and has six children by the time she's turned 19. Lakshmi's struggles to keep her house running, and her family functioning are commendable, and just when things are beginning to go uphill, the Japane
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-studies, asia
I'm impressed with this book regarding the amount of characters that we meet and the fact that it is surprisingly well organized. There is a decent cohesion in the book and the secrets of the story are revealed subtly and through different characters.

This is a multi-generational saga told in first person. Focusing mainly on women, starting with Lakshmi who, at age fourteen, is duped into marrying a man more than twice her age. The mother from the first generation and the first narrator.

There is
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
God damn, Rani Manicka. This was such a stunning read. Took me quite a while to finish this hefty novel but every second was worth it. A few things:

1. Read it for the culture.
Indian celebrations, Malaysian cuisine, Malay bomohs; the colors of the multicultural society of West Malaysia is vivid in this one. It was so much fun to explore the country through the lens of Manicka's characters.

2. Prose prose pROSE
Manicka has stunning prose!! Her control of language + her narrative devices were such a
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
February Smart Women Book Club selection.
I knew nothing of this book nor the author before it was selected by my Book Club for our March read. I cannot say enough about it. I found it compelling, and could hardly put the book down. A family's saga spanning approximatly 80 years. Each chapter told in a different voice; each voice so different. There were so many layers, things left unsaid, feelings not given into. Much sorrow and strength within this family's story. The writing was beautiful. As
Lakshmi Mohan
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
A lengthy novel. Interesting to read, though at the end I skimmed through pages because it was actually very long. Set in Malaysia, it gives an insight into the culture and traditions of the place. The story is good, emotions are portrayed beautifully but I kept looking for a happy ending to the book. Maybe real life stories don't have happy endings.
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intense. Captivating. Vivid. What was not to love about this book. Characters written in such depth, that you grow to simultaneously love and hate. The relatability of cultural diaspora. This book was a journey that truly moves you.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
For me the one character that broke my heart and left me in shock was Mui Tsai the Chinese slave.. I was nearly in tears because of her 💔
I have to say that this novel was very interesting and touching at the first 200 pages but I felt less interested at the last 200 pages I can’t-say it were bad but not as good as the first part.
. . Is it worth reading ? Yes definitely it’s.. I highly recommend it 👍🏻
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“They didn't finish each other's sentences, rather it was the pauses they shared.”

This is a very powerful story.
So much pain and suffering... sometimes it is really difficult to read.
The whole book has such a huge emotional charge, that it is almost like there is no hope, everything is a living hell, no matter what the characters do, their fate is sealled.
Only in the end, you stop holding your breath and dare to hope for a better future for the last descendent.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it
How to rate a book that I think I despised, yet also could not abandon. 1 star is indecent; yet 5 stars is scandalous to give to a book which provided me no pleasure.

Rani Manicka’s dark, complicated, and violent first novel, The Rice Mother, tells the story of a family living in 20th century Malaysia. Lakshmi, the “rice mother”, gives birth to 6 children by age 19. She is both chillingly fierce and sacrificially loving. Her children lead tragic, sordid, perverse lives after witnessing the savag
In the land of far away exotic Malaysia lives the beloved and hated Indian Rice mother named Lakshmi seeming IMO to be some sort of human deity. struggling to raise a family trying to be protective but losing the grip on her her inner demons. Her family fights an unyelding curse she refuses to believe. Through unrelenting frustrations, failures, tragic loss and horrible atrocities from the Japanese brutality during WWII you would think that if any of them survived it, they could face anything to ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I picked this from the library just for fun, as i enjoy Indian readers -and never expected it to move me the way it did.
Superbly poignant. Being malaysian with similar ancestral history, it was like reading something about my own past - bits and pieces of memories of hearing similar things from the older generations.
This book really moved me beyond my imagination and experience. i'm still so overwhelmed.It has been some time since something caught hold of me the way this book did, i'm still reel
Ricardo Vasconcelos
I loved this book. The way the story is told is really fantastic!
The main character, Lakshmi, is not the only one who narrates the events.
We have the opportunity to read some parts of the story narrated by various members of the family and it's amazing to see how Rani Manicka maintained the consistency of the plot from beginning to end!
I found this way of writting really cool and unique because not all characters had the same perspective of some of the events.
There are attitudes from some charac
Anna Adams
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
IF I was talented enough to be a writer, this is exactly how I would write my stories. Her writing is so magical it felt like a fairytale ... only it wasn’t, the culture and traditions in Malaysia were rather harsh and far from a fairytale.

The child in me read each line wide-eyed and anxious about the princess hidden in the castle and the evil dragons with black eyes who sought to find her. The woman in me read each line in complete anguish as I was able to put myself in the shoes of every fema
Coleen Cloete
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Words cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. Rani Manicka takes you on a journey like no other. When a book makes you think of how you live, how you love and how you treat the ones you love it surpass any possible expectations. You cannot help but stop and reread sentences as it is poetic in its language but harsh in its statements. My exposure to the Hindu religion was very limited up to this point. Throughout the story you are being exposed to the wonderful tales of the diff ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A saga about four generations of a family. The formidable matriarch, Lakshmi, at age fourteen leaves her childhood in Ceylon for married life in Malaysia. She gives birth to a child every year until she is nineteen.

The Rice Mother is a book of unyielding hardship. So much sorrow, horror and tragedy. There's not a whole lot of happiness to be found in Rani Manicka's beautiful prose. A prose that at time meanders as it describes with such vividness it's impossible not to picture the scenes or feel
Diana  Davis
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very strong and powerful read. I finally finished reading it after a full 2 weeks, engrossing its pages slowly. No.. you can’t rush this book. It’s too much for me to absorb. The era, the culture, the torment, the suffering, the heartbreak and the not much joy, all mixed up. They’re just too much emotions in this book. And this book also reminds me of another book I’ve read a few years ago called Beauty Is A Wound. Quite similar.
Congratulations Rani Manicka for you have successfully made me fe
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nothing in Lakshmi's childhood, running carefree and barefoot on the sun-baked earth amid the coconut and mango trees of Ceylon, could have prepared her for what life was to bring her. At fourteen, she finds herself traded in marriage to a stranger across the ocean in the fascinating land of Malaysia.
She realizes when she reaches Malaysia, that her husband was far from the rich man her mother was getting her married to. That was all Lakshmi's mother wanted, a good match for her daughter. For her
Stephanie Anze
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lakshmi is a carefree girl that enjoys running barefoot among the mango trees. Her childhood is suddenly cut short when she is made a child bride and forced to marry a man more than twice her age (Lakshmi is 14 years old), believing that he is wealthy. Soon as Lakshmi arrives in her new home, she discovers that to be a lie for her new husband is only a common servant. Lakshmi is thus abruptly pushed into a harsh life and the choices she makes will have repercussions on future generations.

This no
Bhakti Desai
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well-woven character and story-lines - beautiful & poetic descriptions. It has a core focus on its women characters. Seeing and hearing perspectives of events from each character brings out a perspective that ties that entire novel together. ...more
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Rani Manicka, an economics graduate, was born and educated in Malaysia and divides her time between Malaysia and England. Her first novel 'The Rice Mother'Infused with her own Sri Lankan family history is a vivid imaginative story about the frailties of human nature and the consequences of war. It won a Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2003.

She has published a further two novels,'Touching Earth'in 2

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“Flowers grow beneath her feet, but she is not dead at all. The years have not diminished the Rice Mother. I see her, fierce and magical. Stop despairing and call to her, and you will see, she will come bearing a rainbow of dreams.” 6 likes
“Майка ми седеше край него ден и нощ. Понякога го гълчеше, понякога му пееше песни, които никога не бях я чувала да пее. Може би все пак тя го обичаше. Вероятно по природа си беше такава — като настръхнала. И сега си я представям — дребна фигурка, седнала край леглото, върху което се очертава тялото на татко, заобиколен от вечерните сенки. Облегната на рамката на вратата, подпряла петата на левия крак на прасеца на десния, я слушах като захласната как пее песни, които не знаех, че е скътала в себе си. Спомням си, тогава ми хрумна, че мама е като океан. Дълбока и пълна с неизвестни неща. Дори се боях, че никога нямаше да стигна до дъното му. Искаше ми се да съм ручей, който някой ден щеше да прерасне в река и някога да се влее в океана.” 4 likes
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