Published in 1999 by Indian author Anita Desai, the novel is set in two countries, India and the United States. It revolves around a family and their intricacies, specifically around Uma, the family’s oldest daughter who is unmarried and is considered a spinster, and Arum, the youngest child of the clan. Uma is constantly battling with her parents trying to support her brother Arum and get him into university. Her parents overwork her and are very traditional, therefore finding it difficult to understand her heart and her generation. The story is split into two parts, going from Uma’s life in India to Arum’s life in America, showing the parallels between the two cultures.
Rather than a complex story, intricately calculated with a beginning, middle, and end, the novel follows the intricacies in the day to day lives of Uma and her family. There is much drama revolving around Uma and her parents trying to match and marry her off to a man, the plan not working out several times. Many new characters are introduced, each with a different story to tell.
At 228 pages, Desai brings forth the genre of flashbacks into her novel. There are several different moments in the story where an event is brought up only to be seemingly forgotten but then taken back up later.
The book takes up a lot of controversial topics and deep meanings behind the initial front. It touches deeply on the subjects of gender inequality, loyalty, betrayal, loneliness, misunderstanding, and a strong sense of suffering. A lot of the characters introduced have a really hard life with an abundance of hardship and even death. But beyond those topics, the novel does also bring out a feeling of family and true love.