Ganges Boy, by Archana Prasanna.
Ganges Boy, by Archana Prasanna. Koehler Books (2013), Paperback, 160 pages.
SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN WRITERS
A simply-told coming of age story about a boy from a village near Varanasi on the banks of the River Ganges.
Kabir is ten years old at the beginning of the book. His father was Muslim and his mother Hindu. They never married and lived in poverty, denounced by both families for loving outside their own religious communities. After his father’s death, Kabir stayed with his mother who worked in a factory weaving saris by hand. Her death leaves him to fend for himself. Bright and hard-working, Kabir understands that his meager life is his heritage, and he has little hope of anything more. Then a surprising change takes place, but what he can gain comes at a high cost. He has to decide what he wants most in his life.
Young adult readers, perhaps the book’s expected audience, will find Ganges Boy an engaging story with plenty of suspense and drama. More importantly, many will discover that teenagers like themselves live in circumstance radically different than their own. Kabir may dream about the future and girls like other boys, but he is so isolated by his poverty that he is totally amazed by the material goods we often take for granted. Personally I would have welcomed a bit of complexity and ambiguity in the novel. Kabir is too perfect, and his surprising opportunities seem too unbelievable. But overall this is a good read and one that can expand the horizons of its readers.
Archana Prasanna is a lawyer as well as a writer, and she has lived in India, England and America. This is her first novel.
I recommend Ganges Boy to young adult readers.