Originally Published: July 16, 2015 9:37 p.m.
"Flame Tree Road" by Shona Patel
Pick up a copy of Shona Patel's latest novel, "Flame Tree Road," and be transported to a small village outside of Calcutta in 1870s India. Patel's writing is graceful, even lyrical, as she paints a vivid portrait of this land and its people still under the hold of a caste system just as it begins to change.
Biren Roy's family lives under this system, though the brilliant young Biren cannot make himself believe in it. He cannot understand why the wise and talented Charulata, who gave him his warrior name, must live as an outcast under the banyon tree simply because she is a widow. Even his father says it is because of a "cruel and meaningless custom of our society since ancient times." When his own mother becomes one of the cursed and shunned widows, Biren vows he will become a lawyer and work to change the laws that cause so much injustice.
But Patel's book does not get bogged down in the social and political injustice of those times. She shows us the love, beauty and wonder of that culture as well as we accompany Biren on his journey to adulthood. Through his eyes we see potters shaping mounds of clay to fire, then burnish "to rich terra-cotta gold," see fishing boats from over the top of a hibiscus hedge, looking "like they were skimming over a bed of leaves," and catch a glimpse of the scrawny goat scavenging near the incredibly lovely flame tree on the riverbank.
And, of course, there is the love and friendship we experience through Biren's remarkably open heart, love first for family and friends, then for the woman who will change him and the course of his life forever.
But I am not about to give away details about the romance embedded in this story. If you missed Shona Patel's visit to the Peregrine on Wednesday, July 15, you can still come by and pick up a signed copy of her book - and while you're at it, perhaps a copy of her critically acclaimed first book, "Teatime for the Firefly" as well.
- by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company Event Coordinator
Peregrine Book Company, 219-A N. Cortez St., is in downtown Prescott.