Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Abundance by Amit Majmudar

This book held my interest while I was reading it, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked it.

It’s about an Indian family in the U.S. The matriarch is dying. Her relationships with her adult children are tenuous, conflicted. It’s old country vs. new country; she is still rooted in India while her children and grandchildren are firmly American. The conflicts play out in food, in approaches to childrearing, and in expectations of attention. The daughter, Mala, a doctor, is an anorexic control freak. The son Ronak works in finance--his most successful relationship is with his iPhone. No one can meet anyone else’s minimal expectations, let alone make anyone else happy.

For a while the mother and daughter attempt to use cooking as a means to connect to one another, as the mother teachers her daughter the family recipes. But even that doesn't really work. While the mother revels in the creativity of cooking, of using food to express love, to evoke memories, and to create sensory experience, Mala treats the whole activity like a science experiment, reducing each recipe to a series of unconnected ingredients and precise measurements, completely missing the point. And her eating disorder provides further subtext throughout the activity--Mala restricts herself to tiny portions of what they make together (insert interpretation of food=love symbolism here). It was all just sad. Is that what the author intended?

I never know what to say about books that are well written but unpleasant. Or, for that matter, how to recommend them. Do you want to read a book about some miserable people who really don't get one another and can't connect at all? Here you go.   

(Book 17, 2014)