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In the Convent of Little Flowers    by Indu Sundaresan Amazon.com order for
In the Convent of Little Flowers
by Indu Sundaresan
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Atria, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Indu Sundaresan's stories impress because they are beautifully written with great insight into the cultures that make up India. She takes ordinary words and puts them together to create tales of huge impact, relating the history of that country and bringing out the differences between Eastern and Western culture.

In the Convent of Little Flowers is an anthology of stories of days gone by. The tradition of suttee is addressed immolating the widow with the body of her husband. In this tale, it's a twelve-year old child who was married to the sixty-three year old man who died. That she would be married at twelve is awful enough but to burn her alive a practice that was outlawed in the 1800s is hard to countenance.

The practice today of ostracizing a widow (who must also divest herself of everything she ever owned) is met with disbelief. Parents of twelve children are rejected when they can no longer give their children anything. There's an ungrateful son ... the stories go on and reveal what lies beneath the beauty of India. Not so much the cities. They have been melded into the global picture. But the vastness of India is populated by those who hold on to their traditions when they have little else. And Sundaresan poignantly portrays these in a manner that is both beautiful and horrifying.

The ideas for these stories were inspired by newspaper articles, from tales told by neighbors, or gleaned from conversations. While the characters are fictitious, the facts are real - which keeps these stories with the reader for some time after the book is finished. In the Convent of Little Flowers is a book that should be read for its beauty and also for the heads up it gives to the world community.

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