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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  357 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Loya is twenty-five: solitary, sincere, with restless stirrings in her heart. In an uncharacteristic move, she sets off on an unexpected journey, away from her mother, Rukmini, and her home in Bengaluru, to distant, misty Assam. She comes looking for her beloved Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, but also seeks someone else-her grandfather, Torun Ram Goswami, someone she has ...more
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published February 14th 2020
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  357 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Mridula Gupta
A dysfunctional family doesn't just happen. The ripples created by one event can reach far and wide, affecting generations. Loya- half Assamese and half Malyali, has repressed her thoughts and emotions, especially after her parent's divorce. She comes us empty whenever she tried to ascertain her roots and the desire to get some answers takes her to 'The Yellow House', home to her mother Rukmini, who was subjected to scorn by her mother and later abandoned for marrying a Cristian Malyali (read- o ...more
This book had no right to fuck with me the way it did in the last 50 pages. NO RIGHT. *crying*

The book is about a 25 year old girl Loya returning to her mom’s hometown in Assam. She’s never been there as her mother, Rukmani decided to marry out of her ‘caste’ and thus, was shunned from her house. The book talks of estranged families and relations and how they can be mended over time.

I liked this book alright for the first 2/3rds of the book - honestly was feeling a bit underwhelmed as I heard s
Ankita Goswami
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was a little conflicted about whether to give this book a 3 or a 4 star, after finishing it. The ending kind of ruined the whole experience for me, but until then the book was SO good! Right before writing this review, I decided not to rate it lower just because I personally didn't like the ending; it is objectively too good to be a 3-star read.

'Undertow' is extremely well-written, and is an emotional roller-coaster from the very first page. As an Assamese who has spent considerable time at h
Krutika Puranik
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
• r e v i e w •

Before I even read Undertow, I indulged in Rebirth, Jahnavi Barua's second novel which portrayed the beauty of motherhood. It wasn't all roses but I loved reading about the protagonist who spoke to her unborn child about her past and present, all the while imagining their future together. It didn't take me long enough to figure out that Jahnavi is a talented writer. The sort of writer who has the ability to move you through words. Undertow just cemented that fact all over again.
There are some battles which we fight no matter what. 'Undertow by Jahnavi Barua' is one such book of fighting with yourself, and to find what we call a 'home'.
Set in Assam, with a backdrop of hills and flowing Brahmaputra, we see a close-knit story of a family divided through choices they made in their past. Rukmini, in 1983, marries to Alex, who is out of her caste. Neglected by her family, especially by her mother Usha, she left home with Alex and never came back. Loya, Rukmini's twenty-five
Smitha Murthy
I came to ‘Undertow’ after having read Jahnavi’s brilliant ‘Rebirth.’ The luminosity of Barua’s writing shines through in ‘Undertow’ as well - her love for Assam evident in the lush descriptions of its landscape.

What makes a family? What tears a family apart? These are questions that Barua doesn’t answer. But they are questions that she asks of us. For some reason, I couldn’t quite connect to this as well as ‘Rebirth.’ The narrative seemed to stutter here and there - and we don’t want our plots
Soumya Prasad (bluntpages)
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it

**Controversial Post Ahead**

I'm not a parent, yet, but I know enough parents to be able to say the following. Again, this is my opinion alone.

Some parents ruin it for their children. In every possible way. Parents use their children to make up for lost relationships during their time. Men and women have children with the hope that it will save their crumbling marriage. Parents shred relationships with their kin for various reasons and then try to win them all back through their children. Par
Sayantani Sarkar
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Chitra Ahanthem
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-soon
Told through the story of a small family whose members are estranged from one another, Jahnavi Barua's Undertow is a gentle yet intense narrative that looks at family ties, roots and moorings, questioning notions of identity, of trying to forge connections while trudging uncertain grounds and how loneliness is a weight that is difficult to bear. It is about exile and late apologies traversing between time and place.  

The author puts forth both the personal and the political in Undertow: the dyna
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
"On this day of mourning, not even the wind stirred. The only sound was the murmur of the river as it sped along, oblivious to the happenings of the city it flowed through. A city under siege and only the river dared disregard it."

RATING: 3.75/5

I read a short story by Barua, "The Vigil", last month & liked it a lot. This book, which is her latest novel, had also been on my TBR for some time so when it made it to the JCB Prize longlist, I just had to pick it up and I am glad that I finally read
Girija (thesacredwhispers)
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Undertow by Janhavi Barua is a book about the emotions of people in an estranged family.

Twenty five year old Loya knocks on the door of the house whose doors have been closed for her mother, Rukmini ever since she marries an "outsider". Loya, an elephant conservationist has to go to Kaziranga for her research. But why does she land up 200 kms away from her research place and a month in advance at the Yellow House which has been shut for them for the past 25 years?

Torun, Rukmini's father and Lo
Madhu | spokensilence9
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Undertow by Jahnavi Barua is one of those books that you want to finish reading soon, but also want to cherish each and every expression that's presented in it.

Did I ever thought a tale about dysfunctional family from the perspective of the third generation child would be so interesting and will be covering the aspects like what impact does casteism has on people's lives, how the political activities would effect the commoners and each point, Everytime raised is equally thought provoking.

From l
Simran Sharma (Craartology)
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jahnavi Barua's atmospheric read has made to my top 5 favourites this year!

Undertow is a sublime story where it's characters are striving for acceptance and balance in the imbalance and dysfunctional.

Usha, our real protagnist and creator of major happenings and mishaps in the book and yes, the real head of the "The Yellow House" of the Goswami family. She is an ideal wife to her husband and mother to her son, who doesn't wholeheartedly love her daughter Rukmini and controls her life as much as s
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Religion - a word that governs the rules of marriage in rural India to this day. Familial ties are severed if a lovemate is of a different religion, which may lead to banishment and being disinherited. If it is a daughter who has committed this transgression, she who is cultivated in a sheltered cocoon, at odds with a son's freedom - her sin remains unforgiven.

Rukmini sails in this boat, having fallen in love with a Keralite. Being excommunicated, she lives a life bereft of family & love, disill
Varadharajan Ramesh
Mar 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Yes, I understand that what transpires at the end of this book can happen in real life, but that's not the reason we read books for. The deus ex machina kinda ending feels forced and while giving a shock value, it veers away from the story development that took place before it.

Also, character development is half baked. All that angst and anger just goes out of the window because the author said so. Underwhelmed.
Cheshta Choudhury (bookbeliever)
"Human bonds- they were fragile."

Undertow (great title!) is all about human emotions and relations. Rukmini (an Assamese) had been cast out of her paternal home in Guwahati when she decided to marry Alex (a Malyali and thus foreigner). Now, after 25 years, their daughter- Loya is returning to Guwahati, looking for her roots, her home.

The first thing I noticed is the writing style- descriptive, vivid, lyrical, taut and yet incredibly soothing. I instantly fell in love with the words and went back
Raju  Barthakur
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Love, roots, belonging, separation, loneliness – all these create an immersive mélange of emotions in Jahnavi Barua's ‘Undertow,’ her latest novel published by Penguin Random House India. Set in the backdrop of Guwahati, the characters in the novel weave a poignant tale of layered complexities of human relationships, the failure of communication, vocal silences, wilful indecisiveness, and a rebellious desire to break away from the conventional and the routine to eventual acceptance at the cost o ...more
alterego_bookaholic  (Upasana Singh)
A profound storyline which will definitely evoke ambivalent emotions.

When Rukmini fell in love with Alex she made peace with the fact that this inter-religious marriage will not be accepted by her mother Usha & her father Torun will follow suit irrespective of his feelings for her daughter. Loya his grand-daughter seems to be the revitalising force introduced in Torun’s household after 25yrs like a paradox to be unveiled.

Being exiled from your own home your sacred roots is an unsparing act whi
May 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
Had high hopes from this book. Now, I have mixed feelings though.

The writing was good. The characters were real. But still, I couldn't find a connect throughout the story. There were some hopeful moments but I think I wanted much more.

Still, would recommend it to anyone over Savi Sharma and Chetan Bhagat any day.
Monica (Tattered_tales)
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are some books which grip you with an indescribable force and drag you into their world by the power of their writing. Undertow by Jahnavi Barua is one such book which pulls you into the narrative, providing an experience that is almost tangible. I was wondering where else had I undergone a similar literary experience, that answer came to me when I was chatting with my friend about the book, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

The Yellow House of Undertow reminded me of Manderley, the foreboding
Saumya Asthana
Aug 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Undertow gently breaks your heart, then builds it up with a faint sight of hope, and breaks it again, very gently but the tragedy is nothing close to gentle. When are they though?
The ending is more mellow than one would expect but that makes it feel real.
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book looks like a cinnamon roll but can actually kill you.
Anandarupa Chakrabarti
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A dysfunctional family is not a mere circumstance. There always remain a bridge of succeeding events that don’t even leave the generations from the echoes of the past.

This book is nothing short of surprises. I found my mother in Rukmini just for the fact that she spent her youth amongst the chill breeze, surrounded mountains and the silver shinning Brahmaputra.  Through this book, it’s my first official travel to Northeast, specifically Guwahati.

Isn’t it seen that the millennial generation, as w
Sukanya Gogoi
Jun 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing

‘There had never been any of that soft mother –daughter business between them.’
I really enjoy reading stories of dysfunctional families with complicated characters and relationships. Be it an unusual mother daughter relationship lacking love and affection, as in Shashi Deshpande’s ‘The Dark holds no terrors’ and Jahnavi Barua’s ‘Undertow’; sibling rivalries like the one narrated in the recent short story I read-‘The Romance of Certain Old Clothes’; broken and irreparable father daughter relatio
Sukanya   (theemptycartridge)
Where should I begin. This is probably the first book written in English that I've read, which is based on my own state. The author did such a commendable job with her storytelling, that I just wanted to give her a warm hug while weeping on her shoulders, after completing the book. It has to be a talent, to beautifully write such a story which contains several other stories within it, all within less than 150 pages. A number of characters play different roles in this story. Normally, too many ch ...more
Swetha Nisthala
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE who want to read about Assam
Shelves: favorites
I will begin by saying #undertow was the right book for me at the right time. Nothing short of a chance gift that the universe gave me this Diwali, as precious as pearls or gold. It’s the first voice of Northeast India that I listened to and I recommend that if you are new to Indian or Northeast Indian literature, this be your first read.

This is the kind of book that you read on a lazy afternoon, perched on your seat by the window with a South Indian filter coffee in your hand, letting the lang
Apr 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Children are always hopelessly caught between the battle of elders.


The river starts its journey in Tibet, originating from the height of more than 5000 m. The name suggests that it’s the major river of India regarded as male so, from now on I’ll refer to it as ‘He’.

He was always there, gushing forth from the valley between the mountains to quench the thirst of the northeast and to nourish his banks with good harvest and prosperity and also sites with spectacular beauty.

He takes several
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
If we talk about or understand the true definition of Undertow, the exact meaning as per Google is a current of water below the surface and moving in a different direction from any surface current or an implicit quality, emotion, or influence underlying the superficial aspects of something and leaving a particular impression. Undertow book is absolutely true to the meaning of word in every literal sense.

Undertow is story of girl who married against her family wish with a political backdrop of A
Arshiya Gaiban
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Undertow is a depiction of a life in a house of a dysfunctional family living beside an angry river in North eastern part of India, along with glimpse into the lives of a contemporary middle class family.

The story begins with an unhappy wedding of Rukmini, the only daughter of Torun Goswami and Usha. Usha, a matriarch with a controlling personality is against the wedding as Rukmini was getting married to Alex, who was a Malayali, and outside to her caste!

The degraded relationship between mothe
Mousumi Choudhury
Apr 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
I wish I could take away the hours I spent on this book or the high hopes that I had from it. Disappointment is an understatement, to say the least. I am no critic, however having read a fair share of books dealing with an insurgency, severed family ties, and cold parent-child relation (my latest read on similar lines was 'On earth we are briefly gorgeous' by Ocean Voung and 'How we fight for our lives' by Saeed Jones, both exceptionally beautiful in their own way) I can vouch for the fact that ...more
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