Title: In the Convent of Little Flowers: Stories
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Release Date: December 16, 2008
Genre: Multicultural Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Short Stories
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
A young woman who was adopted by an American family in Seattle receives a letter from Sister Mary Theresa, nun at the Convent of Little Flowers in Chennai where she stayed as a child. Unbeknownst to her, the nun is her biological mother’s sister. The grandmother of an Indian journalist begs him to intervene with her husband — his grandfather — to prevent a young widow from being burned alive. A child born out of wedlock to the sixteen-year-old daughter of a peon on an engineering college campus throws the entire family into turmoil.
With the lush prose, vividly rendered settings, complex and appealing characters, and compelling narratives, the stories that comprise In the Convent of Little Flowers illuminate the lives of Indians at home and abroad today, where modernity offers them opportunities that their grandmothers only dreamed of, while others experience just as much oppression as ever. Indu Sundaresan brings together stories that both embrace and reject modern values with an authenticity that only a writer of her caliber could do.
I am a huge fan of Indu Sundaresan’s work. She has written three historical fiction novels; two are about Empress Nur Jahan (The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses) and one is set in India during World War II and the Indian independence movement (The Splendor of Silence). All three are wonderfully written novels that any fan of historical fiction should pick up immediately.
When I heard that Ms. Sundaresan had a short story collection coming out, I eagerly sought the chance to obtain a review copy and was thrilled to receive one. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that they would be amazing stories. And I was right; the stories are very different from her historical fiction work, but they evoke the same emotion within the reader.
The stories in In the Convent of Little Flowers are simply written and utterly beautiful. Some are very emotional; others are horrific (after reading the story about a son who is abusive to his mother and father, I called my own parents immediately, in tears). Each has its own quality that recommends itself to the reader. As such, there is not one bad story among them, not one lesser tale. That is quite a feat for an author, to write stories of such depth and magnitude that they are all equally moving.
All of the stories are about Indians. The majority of them are set in India, though not all. There are classic stories that people of any culture can relate to, stories about love lost between a husband and wife. But there are also stories that are appalling, that make the reader want to weep – the tale of bride burning is one of these. Each story has its own force that propels it forward. Not once did I want to put down the book, to move onto something else. Usually, I read other novels between the breaks in short stories. That wasn’t the case with In the Convent of Little Flowers; I just wanted to continue with the stories, to see what Sundaresan would come up with next. With many of the stories, I wanted more. I would love to see some of them fleshed out as full novels, especially the tale of Padma and her feelings about the truth of her adoption.
I highly recommend all of Indu Sundaresan’s work, and In the Convent of Little Flowers is no exception. It is a beautiful and moving set of short stories that I think anyone would enjoy.
Thank you to Ms. Sundaresan and her publicist for sending me a copy of this book to review.