Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Independent novel review: An Unlikely Goddess by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Unlike most independent authors, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, known on Twitter as @Moha_Doha, eschews genre writing. Her novels include elements of romance, but they do not follow the conventional girl-meets-boy story.

An Unlikely Goddess is mainstream literature, and you can even look at it as part of the stream of books about the Indian immigrant experience, along with Rohinton Mistry and Michael Ondaatje. 

The story

The novel follows Sita from her birth in India. Her mother, Mythili, and the whole family are bitterly disappointed that her first born child is a girl. “What if he leaves me?” is her first thought after seeing her daughter. Mythili’s sister-in-law, Priya, drops the new-born on the hospital floor.

Sita’s life doesn’t get better after that. Her parents, Mythili and Sundar, never fail to remind Sita of how much she disappoints them throughout her life. This gets worse after Mythili gives birth to a boy, Manoj. 

When Mythili is still a young child, the family emigrates to Florida, of all places, where Sundar gets a perpetually temporary job as a researcher in a university. But Sundar never manages to get a promotion or even a permanent position, so he is never able to afford much of a lifestyle. He and his family can only look enviously at the success and socio-economic climb of other Indian immigrants as they move to large suburban homes and buy expensive cars.

What I liked

Characterization is the main strength of An Unlikely Goddess. Not only do we see the action through Sita’s eyes, Rajakumar’s prose enables us to experience an entire world through Sita — especially her conflicted feelings toward her parents.

The secondary characters are also well-developed, and they grow believably, too. Mythili gradually becomes aware of the subservience she’d been socialized to accept, and begins to develop some independence from her husband. Sundar goes through several stages of anger and resentment, blaming his family for his own career failures, but finally begins to mellow and even accept his daughter’s untraditional desires.

The only weak part is the last love interest, Richard. He’s just too good to be true — but then, after everything that the author has put her main character through, she deserves a really great guy.

Professional style

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a prolific and professional independent author. An Unlikely Goddess is her eighth book, and her bibliography includes novels, story collections, anthologies and non-fiction.

An Unlikely Goddess is well written, well edited and has a professionally designed cover. The author’s style is clean and easy to read. Rajakumar is another independent author who reinforces the point that the commercial publishers have no monopoly on quality.


Find An Unlikely Goddess on Amazon

Visit her website and blog

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