BOOK TITLE: Serving Crazy with Curry
AUTHOR: Amulya Malladi
NUMBER OF PAGES: 256
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone
Devi is unemployed and unmarried, with more secrets than she knows what to do with. She knows she will never live up to the example her elder sister has set as not only a traditional Indian wife but also a successful businesswoman. Having lost both her job and a baby, Devi views her life as a failure. With nothing left to lose, she tries to take her own life.
Fate, however, has different plans for her.
Devi’s mother Saroj stops by Devi’s apartment and lets herself in with her spare key, thinking Devi is at work…only to find her daughter lying unconscious in the bathtub. Devi is devastated to discover her life has been saved - not only can she add suicide to her list of failings, but she isn’t sure what she’s been saved for.
Forced to move back in with her parents, she stops speaking, and instead begins to express herself through cooking. Her mother, who has never cooked anything but traditional Indian food in her life, is astounded by Devi’s sudden surge of culinary interest; her wild, crazy concoctions, though far from the meals Saroj is used to preparing, draw the family back to the table again and again. As Devi’s refusal to speak continues, her family begin instead to talk to each other, about their own relationships and their own failings.
And in the wake of Devi’s silence, secrets are revealed that will rock the family to its core…
I had already read one book by the author and I loved it completely that I will recommned it to any new readers who love this genre or even want to try a decent book in IWE. I loved the simplicity of the characters and situations in The Mango Season and the nativity it brought to the fore of my mind. So it was with a good level of expectation that I opened this book to read. I had been putting it off for some time until a request I could not ignore came my way and made me read it at a stretch. Another book I started and finished in a day.
The cover and the summary are simple. But I was not really looking at them because the reading recommendation came from a fellow bookworm whose opinions I value very much.
This is the kind of book that either works for you, or does not. The story is simple. It is focused on an Indian Family living in California, and how the parents went to the land of opportunities during the technical boom and the father succeeded at a start up, becoming rich when the wind blew. The protagonist of the story, Devi, is the main focus but the book also gives importance to every other character too. The book begins with Devi's attempted suicide, and how things branch out from there. The story follows the graph of Devi's life from the attempted suicide and the corresponding recovery. What happens to the future of the woman who has barely escaped death? Does life go back to normal? Does everything fall into routine? Or is that scar forever there?
Serving Crazy with Curry is one of the most fitting titles I have ever seen for novels in recent times. The protagonist is supposed to be Devi, who faces a life changing moment after a stream of failures and decides to end her life, only to fail in that too and be saved by her mother. But every character has equal weightage in the narrative and they each hold a pivotal role, twisting the tale in different directions so much that the reader is kept glued, fascinated by the play of emotions between each of the characters and how different they are with different people. The Veturi household is the perfect family from the outside, with a seemingly happy, successful couple having two daughters, one married to the perfect gentleman and the VP of a company at a very young age and the other trying to make it big in start-ups. There is the elderly grandmother, a military doctor who completes the picture of perfection.
To anyone interested in psychology, this book would be a treat to read, mainly to understand what drove the pampered daughter to suicide and how she recovered (or otherwise) from it. The book worked for me in many ways because of its lucid writing, and also because it was a deeply moving book once I applied some thought to it. It managed to convey the heavier emotions amidst lighthearted family banter and showed the different facets of people and how they reacted under pressure and otherwise. The narrative brought home a lot of points and was, in some ways, very relatable. It showed the power of a family support system and how certain values and prejudices never leave people based on where they were originally from.
All the emotions were bittersweet, the relationships on tenterhooks and the characters are always hiding in depth emotions while managing to keep it together on the surface. The book posed as many questions as it answered initially and by the time it ended, I had actually answered most of the questions myself. There were many interesting instances for me to ponder about. Why did the outwardly very successful Shoba resent Devi for having the courage to think about suicide? What moved the resolute and strong grandmother to tears? What had driven the wedge between the different married couples in the story? Do they burn the bridge or reconstruct it? Are all marriages happy? Do people survive in unhappy marriages to seem like they have the perfect life?
The story answered all this and more, giving me one twist after the other (most of them predictable but exceedingly well placed). The beauty of the twists in the novel is that they were placed in the right places, revealed via very insignificant events that have catastrophic consequences. The book kept me glued to my seat and until I kept turning the pages back even after I'd finished. I specially loved the author's convo with her characters that answered the few questions I had left. Serving Crazy with Curry is relatable because no one is a hero. Be it the strong grandmother Vasu or the soft spoken father Avi, every character had their own bunch of regrets and love lost and found amidst the folds of time. The regrets and the remorse have been beautifully expressed with words that struck a chord.
The characters won me over because they were relatable, and seemed like people I could come across in life. They are each spiteful, with barely sustained anger, and resentment boiling deep in their minds that they could not overcome. But over the course of the book, there are many epiphanys that change the way I viewed each character. Whether they reacted 'in character' or totally 'out of character', they were relatable because they were not 'perfect literary' heroes but were falteringly human. The story worked because it did not have the perfect 'All is well' ending that I was afraid it was going to have. The bittersweet note in the climax is how life is. No matter what happens, it goes on. For the first time in many years, I could not pick on my favorite quote or favorite character from the book despite loving it so much. Because every line made me want to think, to reflect and to analyse the vagaries that human emotions cause. The book was a treat in that sense, showing me that outward appearances and inner personalities don't match, ever, and even that is okay to an extent.
Overall, the language is simple, and the vernacular terms easy to understand, though I prefer a glossary had been added in the end for those who cannot quite get it. The book had its ups and downs and was not always the best. But just because it kept me hooked enough to finish in a single day, I give it special consideration. The editing could have been a bit better, tightening the slackening pace and reducing some descriptions. I could not quite sympathise with the protagonist but because every character made an impression in their way, this need not even be mentioned. Serving Crazy with Curry is a book I will read many times over, in parts and in whole because it has an idyllic beauty to it that has attracted me to it.
WHAT I LIKED:
- The titling of each chapter that made me wonder what was coming. Special touch by the author.
- The placement of the twists that sustained my interest in the story even though I could guess most of them.
- The recipes in the story, that were not actually just recipes but also infused with emotions and thoughts.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
- For such a good story, neither the summary nor the cover fit quite right.
- The story has uneven pacing and it takes some time for the reader to get into the narrative after wading through the words that seemed to go round about, like thoughts churning in a confused mind.
- There was a lull in the story at places where I felt absolutely no emotion towards any of the character except exasperated confusion but the book was worth it.
The book shall be revisited again and again, and read afresh every time, despite its obvious flaws.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including The Sound of Language and The Mango Season. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive for a global medical device company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children. Connect with Amulya at www.amulyamalladi.com.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle and Paperback
PRICE Rs.199 for Kindle, Rs. 992.76 for Paperback
BOOK LINKS: Amazon