I've noticed that too. He brings it up in Between the Assassinations as well. I wouldn't count is senseless though. I think it has a very distinct point. If you notice the 'Vitiligo Lips' is a man of mixed character - neither pure nor evil. He's been corrupted for sure, but there are also some (white) spots of compassion.
I have read many novels set in India, many great, but not many that feel so authentic. This novel brings so much to life — the slums of India, the class system, juxtaposition/intermingling of wealth and poverty, and the complexity of life in a world where class is deeply rooted in religion, tradition, acceptance, etc... And it does it without resorting to what I consider "Bollywood" tactics — no weird coincidences, no savior appearing from nowhere, spontaneous dancing :-p, etc...
The characters will stay with you, the prose is wonderful — never full of itself and intrusive, and this title (so apt) will cause you to consider the spaces between you and those in your world, something we often purposely ignore.
You do realize it's out, right? Has been for nearly a year.
Umm... of course! I meant the paperback :-/
Are you guys fans of this kind of book? I call it the "NRI" genre. There are tons of books on immigration and immigrants -- at least in American literature (for obvious reasons). But, these South Asian-themed stories have a certain peculiarity about them.
Anyway, I find some (esp. Jhumpa Lahiri) to be pedestrian, pedantic and cliche. I haven't read Unaccustomed Earth (and don't plan to), but I have read the Namesake.
I agree, Ritu. At least, to a certain extent. Many Indian writers have already dealt with the immigrant experience lyrically, beautifully, and innovatively. It's not new anymore. In fact, I'd say it's over done.
Writers of the diaspora are now so beyond this subject area that they have either started writing about a generation born and brought up here, comfortable with their Indianness or having forsaken it altogether (eg. Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukerjee etc.) or they have given themselves the liberty and the permission to write freely about an Indian or South Asian perspective, set solely and completely in those spaces (Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, etc...).
I'm reluctant, however, to cast all writers from the Indian diaspora as part of the "NRI genre" as you call it.
So, is this worth picking up? I was kind of excited about it until someone threw water on that.
I loved this book. It has so many layers and dynamics at play. I've never been to Mumbai (Bombay) but have heard and seen much about it. Mehta's depiction was much more vivid and engaging than most of those combined.
I need to get out of my typical genre of reading and experience something new. I think I'll start with this. It's as far from my usual reads and yet interesting enough that I have a chance in enjoying it.
I know a couple people who've read this an not enjoyed it (primarily because of the ending). If this is your big entrée into non-required reading, you might want to pick a more universally acclaimed book.