Priyanka Champaneri's Reviews > Karma

Karma by Cathy Ostlere
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really liked it

It's a good thing that I didn't realize this was a "novel in verse" until I brought the book home from the library, because then I almost certainly would have passed it over, convinced that a book with a title like "Karma," a Bollywood-ish cover, and the additional supposed gimmick of being a giant poem was bound to be awful.

And it could have been....but it wasn't.

What saves this book is everything contained within the covers - the writing, the story, the characters, and the alternating POVs.

The writing: beautiful, with every word chosen with such deliberate care. Each page is a separate poem for the most part, yet they read like mini-chapters. As I was reading I wondered if the effect would have been the same if Ostlere had simply written it as a novel...and thank goodness she didn't, because this end result is truly exquisite.

The story: engaging on all levels, with conflict coming from many directions, the most urgent being the Hindu and Sikh riots which erupted after Indira Gandhi was assassinated. You don't need to know too much about this event - or about Indian religion or culture in general - because the author does such a wonderful job of outlining it all for you.

The characters and POV: The story revolves around Maya/Jiva, who becomes lost in the city during the riots and loses her voice after a traumatic experience; and Sandeep, the boy who becomes her caretaker and “voice” as Maya works through her trauma. The POV shifts between the two are necessary to keep the book from becoming too melancholy on Maya’s side and too irreverent on Sandeep’s, but the balance struck by both really flesh out the story and bring both humanity and humor in explaining a series of events that stained India’s history.

I found this book on NPR's list of Teen/YA picks, but I think pigeon-holing this gem as such would be an injustice. In fact, if I ever teach literature again, I would definitely add this to my students’ reading list. It’s impossible to finish this book and NOT want to talk about it.
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Reading Progress

August 28, 2011 – Started Reading
August 28, 2011 – Shelved
August 29, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Cathy Oh my, why a wonderful review of Karma. Thank you so very much.

best,

Cathy


Priyanka Champaneri And thank you for writing such a wonderful book! I'll be excited to read your next :)
pc


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