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Each description, murmur of dialogue and turn of phrase rings sharply.

We can see the worlds she describes through each woman's distinctive gaze. The parallels of Bhima's and Sera's life are dealt with subtly; indeed there is nothing heavy-handed or melodramatic about this novel. We see the squalor of Bhima's existence; we feel her rage and helplessness as she stands over her pregnant, doomed granddaughter as acutely as we smell Sera's onions simmering in the hot oil of the frying pan.

The lives of these women are rendered vividly, without bias, by a narrator who easily slips behind the curtain of her words. Umrigar the author virtually disappears, achieving a kind of omniscience that only the best writers can hope for, allowing readers to witness the flaws and beauty of both these women and make their own judgments.


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Strong and startling images punctuate the text from the charred black rope, woven with bitterness and resentment, that uncoils itself within Sera as she looks on her stepmother, to the face of the balloon seller who once delighted and fascinated Bhima and her husband, the memory of whom haunts her still. We see Bhima betrayed time and time again by her family, by the government, by men who claim authority and take advantage of her trust and lack of education, by her aging body and her once-trusting spirit.

Yet she possesses a dazzling, almost blinding conviction that there are sparks and pockets of pure goodness in the world, and Sera shines brightly in her eyes.

That is why the final climactic betrayal of the book is wrenching. Bhima has risen above so much and yet this final betrayal may be the wound that will not heal, festering and infecting her body with a vile, justified rage at the unfairness of her life a rage that will destroy her in the end.

KIRKUS REVIEW

This book will keep readers up nights, absorbing them in the sights and sounds of Bombay, the struggles of its central characters, and the flashes and glints of the peripheral characters: Sera's daughter Dinaz, her son-in-law Viraf, Bhima's granddaughter Maya, and the ghosts of both women's husbands that still haunt their memories. Despite their class differences, the two women are bound by the bonds of gender and shared life experiences - both had marriages that started out with great romantic love and promise, but ended up as crushing disappointments.

Ultimately, Sera Dubash faces a decision that will force her to choose between loyalty to gender and friendship or loyalty to her social position and class.

Genre: Literary Fiction. Secret Daughter Shilpi Somaya Gowda. When the Moon is Low Nadia Hashimi.