I was looking forward to reading this book. It’s about the inhabitants of Kalimpong, India near the Himalayas in the late 1980s. This part of India is close to other countries and is compact. Peoples of many nationalities and religions coexist in this small area.
The characters are living a life that won’t stay stable for long; there are national and local events happening that will affect them.
One of the characters, Biju, leaves for New York City and works there as an illegal alien. He suffers a lot and does not enjoy life in the U.S. Everyone takes advantage of him, including his own countrymen. However, he is the only one who tried to shake free the lethargy of the Kalimpong.
I cared for some of the characters and couldn’t believe how callous others were. It’s just the same as I feel for people in real life.
The stories of the various characters are told in flashback form and not linear in time.You have to work a little bit to keep the stories and timelines straight.
The language in certain passages was beautiful. When the judge goes to England to study, he doesn’t feel comfortable there, so “He retreated into a solitude that grew in weight day by day. The solitude became a habit, the habit became the man, and it crushed him into a shadow.” The cook revered aluminum foil; “..washing, drying, using, and reusing them until they crumbled into the tinselly scraps that he couldn’t bear to throw away.” Gyan found that love was “…wasn’t a scripture; it was a wobbliness that lent itself to betrayal, taking the mold of whatever he poured it into.”
Yet, despite the characters and the language, I didn’t feel moved or interested by the novel. I wanted to learn more about this area of India, but I felt that the novel only touched the visible level. After awhile, the characters seems whiny to me also.
Another book club member felt the same way about the character, and she had the feeling that she had read this novel before. She said the The Inheritance of Loss reminded her of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, which won the 1997 Booker Prize.
The only character that we both admired was Biju, who dared to travel elsewhere.
I give this book a tepid recommendation. I loved the language, but the novel felt superficial to me, even though it won the 2006 Booker Prize. I know that Desai can reach deeper, but she didn’t do it in this work.