Karma and Other Stories
Harper Perennial, 2007
In this sparkling collection, award-winning writer Rishi Reddi weaves a multigenerational tapestry of interconnected lives, depicting members of an Indian American community struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the allure of Western life.
In "Lord Krishna," a teenager is offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but ultimately forgives the teacher against his father's wishes. In the title story, "Karma," an unemployed professor rescues birds in downtown Boston after his wealthy brother kicks him out of his home. In "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy," which appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2006, an irascible retired judge reconnects with a childhood friend while adjusting to a new life with his daughter and her American husband. In "Devadasi," a beautiful young woman raised in the United States travels back to India and challenges the sexual confines of her culture. And in "Bangles," a widow decides to return to her native village to flee her son's off-putting American ways.
Set mostly in the Boston area, with side trips to an isolated immigrant community in Wichita, Kansas, and the characters' hometown of Hyderabad, India, Karma and Other Stories introduces a luminous new voice.
"Each of the stories in this mature collection shows first- and second- generation Indian-Americans attempting to manage the disconnect between cultures. The premise is hardly a new one, but Reddi's understated prose and her choice of detail give her revelations a quiet power."
-The New Yorker
"While her themes are familiar, Reddi deftly employs images to crystallize them: a set of red glass bracelets smashed with a rock, a wounded bird confused by Boston's skyscrapers, even a bean-and-cheese burrito, all call to mind the isolation and occasional bewilderment shared by her sympathetic characters."
"An excellent debut collection....For fans of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake but also for fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald's elegant studies of a culture that is both familiar and foreign."
"Reddi's voice is gentle, her eye is watchful, and the dilemmas of her often-isolated characters are by no means solely those of the immigrant community. A soft-spoken, sympathetic collection."
[Reddi] has burrowed so deeply into the lives of her characters as to make them not only real individuals but very memorable and sympathetic ones. It is a most impressive achievement."
-Arthur Golden, bestselling author of Memoirs of a Geisha
"These stories have a stillness and clarity of language that allow immediate closeness to the emotional lives of the characters....Sad, sweet, tender -- a truly lovely book."
-Kiran Desai, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss
"Reddi's characters are complicated people: lonely, prideful, loving, lost, and, as are the stories they inhabit, memorable and worthy of our attention. Exquisite."
-Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment
"Rishi Reddi has written a unique and beautiful book with the power to both entertain and educate. The reader is left to ponder whether making up one's mind -- and heart -- to be free is a decision that can transcend both custom and country."
-Judith Guest, bestselling author of Ordinary People