photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bargain Book Discovery- "Karma and Other Stories"

"Karma and Other Stories" by Rishi Reddi first caught my eye not because of the title, or the reviews on the back cover, but by the sheer simple elegant beauty of it.

It IS a beautiful elegant book- by all appearances it looks like a hard cover with a dust jacket, but it's a soft cover with enough overlap to fold inward- like the foldover end sleeves of a dust jacket, and I thought "How very cool is THAT?" because while I like using those dust jacket sleevy things in lieu of a bookmark, dust jackets generally end up disappointing me- they get torn easily and become ratty looking and I end up yanking them off and tossing them out, leaving a plain yakky cheap lookin' underbook that seems in turn embarrassed at being all nekkid and without its dust jacket's schmancy illustrations.

The artwork is lovely, with just enough foiled details to be classy.

The pages- oh my- the pages are linen-weight and color and it's a joy just to turn them.

I had to have this book merely for all the above reasons (inserting here that books like this one *which was on the bargain under $5 shelves* are the reason I will never, ever, EVER own a Kindle or a Nook or some other electronic screened bastardization of literature), and as I turned to the first story I fervently hoped the inside would be even half the delight of the outside.

And I'm happy to report that this is one case where you CAN completely judge the book by its cover.

There are seven short stories in Karma- not surprisingly stories about Indian people and families fitting into (or not fitting into) American society. Sort of all related, just enough to tie them together, but loosely enough for them each to be able to stand alone, the stories are carefully crafted with meticulous detail- the characters both believable and likable- even when acting badly.

And though there is conflict, and confusion, and stress and sometimes sadness in each of these families and in all of their hearts the overwhelming over-riding attitude shot through every story is dignity. And certain yet respectful pride of self and cultural history.

Struggling gracefully through non-cataclysmic yet intense turmoil from without and within, it was ever so easy to look on the characters of Karma with encouragement, and compassion, and admiration, but never ever with pity.

I loved reading this little book- it was very difficult to put it down once started- not for the normal "page-turner" reasons of mystery or thrill or excitement- but because in the middle of my own everyday annoyances and stresses taking a moment to open this book and absorb the words inside was akin to inhaling deeply of a gardenia.

"Karma and Other Stories" is a balm for the soul and a gentle smile for the heart.

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