by Amit Majmudar
4 stars - life, small, personal, bittersweet
ALR Blue - no animals
This book is both less and more than the teaser on the dust jacket.
The dust jacket would leave one to believe that the central theme of the novel is the passing along of cooking techniques from mother to daughter and the clash of personalities that result when son, Ronak, proposes publishing the recipes. It's less than that. It's something much more intimate, something richer.
What the author gives us instead is the thoughts of a woman as she approaches death. While the author is male, his first person narrative as an older woman is beautiful.
The mother, who is never named, tells us of the months following a cancer diagnosis. Her cancer, while certainly a big part of her life, is not what she focuses on. Instead, she shares with the reader all the thoughts, joys, concerns, of a mother, daughter, grandmother, person.
Somehow, Mr. Majmudar uses the selection of topics to tell us far more about the narrator than what is actually discussed. His character is focused on her life, her family. As her children and their children spend more and more time with her, her relationship with them evolves in ways small on the outside, big on the inside.
It's a quiet book. Her thoughts drift back to the time when her own mother was dying. She lingers over some events of the past, but keeps herself firmly in the present. She is neither courageous nor defeated.
If there is a moral to the story, it is similar to the attitude I have adopted as I age. That is to find a balance between letting life happen and trying to control it. To embrace today, with all of it's joys and sorrows. To keep loved ones close and to be honest with them.