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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Parcel by Anosh Irani


Description: Anosh Irani is one of those authors that I always seek out. His novels are dark, gritty, and deeply unsettling. There’s typically some moment of joy or inspiration so that it’s not dire straits the whole way through. This novel, though, ugh. It’s such a terrible, heartbreaking story. It took me weeks to get around to thinking about it and how to write a review. The basics are that Madhu is born a boy but knows he’s a girl. There’s no way his family will accept this, it’s an embarrassment to his father and both parents turn their back, maybe unknowingly. Madhu runs away and is adopted into the close-knit clan of transgender sex workers in Kamathipura, the notorious red-light district of Bombay. There are lots of graphic details on the rituals of becoming a eunuch, and about the sex trade. Madhu grows up a beauty and is sought after, but now at 40 has moved away from prostitution and is bringing up the next generation. The hardest part of this novel is reading about the kidnapping and trafficking of young girls, who are sold by beloved aunties or their parents. It’s devastating that is not pure fiction. Madhu has a redemptive moment but, as a reader, this novel left me feeling despair.

Perfect Read for fans of Rohinton Mistry and Yann Martel, who like the darker sides of those reads. This is beautiful writing, and tragic subject matter.

Favourite Moment: I love all the small details that paint a full picture of the scene. Here’s the opening of chapter 2: “Underwear Tree had its name thanks to the array of underclothes that were left to hang and dry in its loving care. It was one giant hanger for clothes, a dhobi’s delight. At any time of day, underwear in all shapes and sizes were caught in its branches like kites. Over the years, Underwear Tree served as a barometer for economic growth. If the elastic of the underwear was tight, it signified that people living in the hutments below the tree were doing well. If the elastic was loose, it meant overuse for the underwear and hard days for the owners.”

The Parcel by Anosh Irani
Published by Knopf Canada

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