Friday, June 4, 2010

Review: Buddha's Orphans by Samrat Upadhyay

Buddha's Orphans is a circuitous story that takes the reader through the end of one generation to four generations later of a Nepali family. Focusing most strongly on the cultural expectations imposed by Nepali famlies on their children, you can feel the world changing through each generation. The second theme of the book focuses on the strong (and not so strong) bonds of family. A sprinkling of politics is thrown in as well.

Most of the book focuses on Raja and Nilu. Raja is abandoned by his mother in a city park while she goes on to drown herself. Raja, an orphaned infant is turned away at the local orphanage. The poor street vendor, Kaki, rejected by her own son, sees raising Raja as a way to correct any mistakes she's made in the past with her grown son, and struggles to raise him despite her very precarious economic situation.

From this point, Rajas life takes twists and turns through life, but by his side from childhood is his friend and true love Nilu. Their story together takes center stage throughout most of the book. The youthful love bonds that these two created were believable and I found myself reflecting on the crushes/close friendships I had with boys when I was a child.

Ultimately, can Raja's birth mother's mistake ever be rectified through future generations? That is the question the author works towards up until the final chapter.

The book does have some awkward sexual situations. Nothing really gets steamy or sensual. The author glosses over most sexual situations with simple to the point language.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but would liked more focus on Kaki and her first six years raising Raja. She is quite a character, my favorite of the book.


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