STARRED REVIEW
December 2018

All the Lives We Never Lived

By Anuradha Roy

To learn facts about one’s parents from their younger days can be a sobering experience. But discoveries might be especially painful if the facts concern a mother who abandoned her child. Anuradha Roy explores this dynamic in her perceptive new novel, All the Lives We Never Lived.

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To learn facts about one’s parents from their younger days can be a sobering experience. But discoveries might be especially painful if the facts concern a mother who abandoned her child. Anuradha Roy explores this dynamic in her perceptive new novel, All the Lives We Never Lived.

In 1992, Myshkin Chand Rozario is in his mid-60s. He still lives in his childhood home in the Indian town of Muntazir, where he works as the superintendent of horticulture, “a glorified gardener,” as he puts it.

Myshkin has received a large envelope from someone in Vancouver. The contents of the package pertain to his mother, Gayatri, which prompts Myshkin to recall the events of his childhood in 1937, when India was still under British rule and his mother yearned for a more fulfilling life. Into this picture come two real-life figures: Walter Spies, a German painter who met Gayatri years earlier, and Beryl de Zoete, an English dancer who horrifies young Myshkin with pronouncements like, “I eat little boys baked in the oven. With extra salt.” Inspired by Spies’ philosophy that “there is music in everything, beauty everywhere,” Gayatri leaves her family for what she hopes will be a more exciting and artistic life.

If the novel goes off on too many tangents, Roy is nonetheless a thoughtful writer who creates beguiling scenes, such as the emergence of women holding candles at nighttime, “a wavering line of fireflies,” as they sing a Muslim mourning chant. All the Lives We Never Lived is an affecting tale of loss, remarriage and rediscovery.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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All the Lives We Never Lived

All the Lives We Never Lived

By Anuradha Roy
Atria
ISBN 9781982100513

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