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This first collection of fiction by Anjana Appachana provides stories that are beautifully written, the characters in them carefully and respectfully drawn. All the stories are set in India, but the people in them seem somehow displaced within their own society--a society in transition but a transition that does not come fast enough to help them. Appachana manages to capture the pervasive humor, poignancy, and self-delusion of the lives of the people she observes, but she does so without seeming to pass judgment on them. She focuses on unexpected moments, as if catching her characters off guard, lovingly exposing the fragile surfaces of respectability and convention that are so much part of every society, but particularly strong in India, with its caste system, gender privileges, and omnipresent bureaucracy. One of the most unusual aspects of many of the stories is the way in which they are informed by but never ruled by the author's feminism. She never lectures her readers but lets us see for ourselves. Appachana's vision is unique, her writing superb. Readers will thank her for allowing them to enter territory that is at once distant and exotic and familiar and recognizable.

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