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The Abundance, by Amit Majmudar.

March 22, 2013

The Abundance: A Novel, by Amit Majmudar.  Metropolitan Books (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages

A wonderful, tender book about a couple who had migrated to America from India and their two adult children, who were born in the US, coping with the mother’s illness.

When the narrator of this novel is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, she and her family must come to terms in daily ways with her mortality.  Her husband is supportive, and in her eyes, able to protect and support her.  Her daughter and son, both grown, successful, and with children of their own, frequently find ways to come home to be with her.  New closeness is sometimes possible, but old tensions also constantly erupt.  Mother and daughter reunite by cooking Indian foods, but even this does not stop their frequent bickering.  When the son tries to get involved, sibling rivalry explodes and everyone gets hurt.  Tensions are accepted as part of life, however, and gratitude in spite of pain becomes the overriding mood of the book.  And I loved its final images.

Amit Majmudar is a fine writer who has managed to write about the potentially disturbing topics of aging and death without writing a book that is depressing or glib.  The narrator is not saccharine or whining about her situation.  Although her grief, anger and frustration at her failing body sometimes surface, she tells her story calmly, in a straightforward manner, with her emotions recorded alongside other facts.  She does not turn to religion, but simply accepts her mortality and is grateful for the abundance of love received from those she loves.   While obviously imperfect herself, she is a model, so often lacking, for aging gracefully.

Much of Abundance consists of flashbacks and reminiscences about the narrator‘s experiences back in India and as a young bride and mother in the USA.  She compares her own life with that of her children and weighs the rights and wrongs of how she and her husband raised them.  Certainly, her children distanced themselves from their parents and from most aspects of their Indian tradition.  The story of the division of immigrant born parents and US-born children is a familiar one, of course.  What is different about this book is that this story is told by the mother, not the children; a mother who is simultaneously understanding and saddened by their choices.

Amit Majmudar is an Indian-American doctor and a poet as well as an author of novels.  He is another example of how some men can write with superb understanding about women.  While I accept that women and men will often continue to write and read differently because of the gender roles that define our experiences, I am thrilled by authors like Majmudar who dramatically show how those gender divisions can be transcended in our books and in our imaginations.

This book was sent me by Henry Holt Publishers as a Library Thing Early Reviewer.  I am grateful both for the receiving the book and for its publication.

I strongly recommend this book to those who are interested in the relations between first and second generation immigrants, especially those from India.  And to all who dare to think about their own aging and mortality or the aging and mortality of their parents.

[The blurb on the back of the book misleads readers into expecting a “happy ending” of total reconciliation.  Majmudar gives us something more complex and meaningful.  The blurb needs to be corrected.]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. aartichapati permalink
    March 22, 2013 3:56 pm

    I always get so nervous when I think about my parents aging, even as I can see it happening before my eyes. This sounds like a very tender and well-written book. Thanks for the heads up.

    • March 22, 2013 4:58 pm

      The author said he wrote this book out of his own fear of his parents dying.

  2. March 23, 2013 3:35 am

    What Aarti said. They’ve just entered their sixties and sometimes that fact just hits me. Anyway, this sounds like an excellent novel.

    PS: Unrelated, but is there an e-mail address where I could reach you? Eva and I have just created a Google Doc to discuss the Thomas King. I know we’re way behind schedule but if you still want to join us that would be great!

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