Mother India

Tova Reich (Author)


Literary, lyrical, and cuttingly satiric, Mother India is a brilliantly original novel about Jews who go to India to find transformation and eternal release from the sufferings of life. Narrated in luminous prose by Meena, a Jewish American lesbian who has claimed India as her home, the novel is vividly populated by the darkly comic
universe of three generations of women along with other family members, as well as by the Indians whose world they seek to penetrate. There is Meena's religiously observant mother, Ma, whose desire to remove herself from the wheel of life plays out in a Faulknerian funeral procession and cremation on the banks of the holy river Ganges; Meena's daughter, Maya, a misunderstood child coming of age in an emotionally treacherous household; her ex-wife, Geeta, a privileged and hedonistic Indian woman who enters their world with devastating consequences; Meena's twin brother, Shmelke, a charismatic rabbi turned guru and international fugitive; and the Indian servant, Manika, whose loyalty to the family both sustains and shackles them.

Identifying with the humanity of its characters, the reader is drawn into a vast, tragicomic, and fascinating epic, Homeric in scope, drama, discovery, and surprise. Universal yet intimate, brutal yet tender, satiric yet sympathetic, Mother India evokes reactions--intellectual, emotional, visceral--that are complex, even contradictory, containing the might and bite that our current cultural hubris and self-involvement deserve. In Mother India, Reich offers us her most poignant and astonishing novel to date.

Product Details

$18.95  $17.43
Syracuse University Press
Publish Date
November 06, 2019
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Tova Reich is the author of several novels, including My Holocaust and One Hundred Philistine Foreskins. Her stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, AGNI, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. In 1996, she won the National Magazine Award for her story "The Lost Girl." She lives outside Washington, DC.


Within each surging, antic, visceral scene, rendered with ferocious specificity, Reich, on the same frequency as Cynthia Ozick, maintains the focus of a sharpshooter, targeting the power of the guru, the corruption of faith, the hubris of do-gooders, epic poverty, sexual violence, and life's endless cycle of sorrows. Reich's saga of family, loss, and the search for enlightenment is unrelenting in its invention, jolting clarity, dark absurdity, and deep compassion.--Booklist (Starred Review)
From the value placed on motherhood in orthodox Jewish and Indian traditions to Meena and her twin brother's dynamic, Reich juxtaposes unexpected elements of faith, society, and personal identity to harrowing effect.--Foreword Reviews
Reich has an unusual imagination, a rich vocabulary...and a knack for story-telling. . . . This is a novel such as neither you nor I have ever read before.--San Diego Jewish World
Literary, lyrical, and cuttingly satiric, Mother India is a brilliantly original novel about Jews who go to India to find transformation and eternal release from the sufferings of life....Reich offers us her most poignant and astonishing novel to date.--The Jewish Book Council
A superbly written novel . . . incisive and unflinching.--J. The Jewish News of Northern California
Relentlessly daring and stylistically hypnotic, Mother India from its earliest passages releases imaginative floods of extravagant pageantry--the turbulent sounds and smells and colors of the Varanasi ghats seem to float up from the page to dizzy the senses. And yet bloody contemporary headlines are also in the mix: the jihadist bombing of Mumbai. In this, her newest novel--passionate and hilarious and wildly original--Tova Reich dazzlingly surpasses even herself.--Cynthia Ozick, award-winning author of Foreign Bodies
Tova Reich writes like no one else I know writing today (or yesterday). She is singular and superb.--James Morris, editor of the Wilson Quarterly
Sensual, satiric, and deeply reflective, Mother India is Tova Reich at her most provocative and wise. "Nobody comes to India and is not in some way changed," her main character tells us; nobody can read a Reich novel and not be utterly transformed.--Tara Ison, author of A Child out of Alcatraz
Few contemporary writers are truly original. Tova Reich is one of them. Mother India is a stunning achievement.--Howard Norman, author of My Darling Detective

Mother India is brilliantly allusive, boldly irreverent, and mordantly funny. Tova Reich once again lifts her woman's
naked voice, this time to situate three generations of strong-minded heroines amidst the rickshaws, ashrams and cremation pyres of Varanasi and Mumbai, home to American Jews and Israelis, firewalkers and gurus.

--Ilana Kurshan, author of If All the Seas Were Ink
Powerful, evocative and daring, Mother India is a hypnotic tale of family, culture and identity, a compassionate portrayal of the ties that bind us then ultimately set us free.--Jaimee Wriston Colbert, author of Vanishing Acts and Wild Things