Title: Other Waters
Author: Eleni N. Gage
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Cultural Fiction (South Asian)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Maya is a doctor at a New York City hospital, and her biggest worry is how to tell her traditional Indian family about her very non-Indian boyfriend, Scott. But when her beloved grandmother dies, Maya is bereft, and all of her sudden her life isn’t so easy anymore. One by one, each member of her family suffers a misfortune, and Maya becomes convinced that her family is cursed, despite her lack of belief in such a thing. Determined to put this curse to bed once and for all, Maya travels to India and in the process joins together the two cultures that have been warring inside her for so long.
Other Waters is an interesting exploration of culture, and specifically, of the unique dilemma that faces the children of immigrants. Growing up in one culture, yet knowing that you are just as much a part of another can be a confusing experience. It’s difficult to find a sense of identity, knowing that you belong in both, yet don’t quite fit into either. Maya must face down this dilemma once and for all, forging a sense of identity between Indian and American culture, rather than trying to choose between the two.
The idea of the curse in Other Waters is very interesting. At the beginning, Maya brushes it off because she doesn’t believe in such superstition. But as bad things begin to happen around her, Maya wonders if there really is a curse. The book isn’t about whether there is a curse or not, but rather in the power of belief. Maya’s gradual belief in the curse gives it power, yet she also realizes that if it actually exists, it doesn’t matter if she believes in it or not because it will wreak havoc on her family either way. It’s really interesting to witness the interplay between modern day American life and the ghosts of superstition and ingrained beliefs.
Maya herself is a bit stunted when Other Waters begins. She’s accomplished professionally, but her personal life is a mess under the surface. She doesn’t know what she wants or how to commit. She assumes that her family will disapprove of Scott, but isn’t willing to take a stand for him. It’s interesting to watch Maya figure out her issues, as well as the neat and tidy solutions that she thinks will take care of all her problems. It’s when those solutions unravel as well that things really become interesting. This isn’t a book where all the plot threads are tied together into a nice little bow; instead, it’s messy and complicated, like real life.
If you’re looking for a South Asian read that’s contemplative, but still is on the lighter side of things, Other Waters is a good bet. Maya can be frustrating at times, but she’s realistic and it’s interesting to get inside her head. If your book club is looking for a novel with some culture, this is a great choice.