Ramona's Reviews > The Rice Mother

The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka
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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 savage brutality of the Japanese occupation during WW2.

The novel leaves the reader with a spiritual, emotional and psychological poverty. Is there no one to redeem the characters’ abusive and distorted attempts to love each other? Will no one speak the truth to Lakshmi and her progeny that authentic love desires the person’s good?

Perhaps I find this novel so disquieting because I come from the Christian paradigm of a love which mirrors God’s love. There was not a single “act of love” in The Rice Mother which was not destructive. Perhaps, however, in an act of hope, Nisha, Lakshmi’s great-granddaughter, will discover the Truth about love, so magnificently expressed by Pope Benedict16 in the encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.
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Reading Progress

August 3, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 6, 2009 – Finished Reading

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Ayesha I cannot agree more with you. I felt the absence of love of GOD throughout the novel. Many instances where mere the belief on GOD would have made the life easier.

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