Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Karma" by Cathy Ostlere

517 pages

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikhs. This sparks riots in Delhi for three days, and Sikh families are killed in retaliation for the Prime Minister’s death. It's pretty bad timing for sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, who have just arrived in Delhi from their home in Canada to spread the ashes of Maya's mother, who was Hindu. When Maya and her father are separated, she has to try to find him in this strange, very dangerous world. Along the way, she witnesses unbelievable horror but also finds love in an unexpected place.

First of all, I have to comment on the format of Karma. It's written in verse, and I wish it hadn't been. I know I say this in every review of a novel in verse, but I just don't see why it's written this way. When I read parts aloud to myself, it sounded just like a regular book. The language isn't particularly poetic. There's nothing unusual done with the structure. The format just distracted me. Also, the story is supposed to be a diary, so to me it seemed like there were two gimmicks going on. Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to "get" novels in verse. That said, I still enjoyed this book. Maya is a likable character who many readers will relate to. She's always struggled to reconcile the two parts of her heritage, Sikh and Hindu, and before her mother's death her parents were always pulling her in two different directions. Then she gets to India and is thrown into all this chaos and terror, and it just overwhelms her...and all of this happens while she's still trying to deal with her mother's death. She's definitely not perfect and she makes some mistakes, which actually made me like her more. The romance part is a little too much for me; Maya and Sandeep are both young and just met but they fall in love immediately, which is annoying and unrealistic. I wish their relationship grew more slowly and was less intense. However, I enjoyed the rest of the story. It's got enough action to make it move along quickly, and a lot of heart as well.

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