Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"That is not how our babies are born. Only white people have sex."

(wow, i guess you really do learn something new every day...)

Though young Rumi Vasi might be a Gifted mathematical genius in every other way she is a normal pre-teen (later teenage) girl, in this first novel by Nikita Lalwani~or at least she longs to be (i've often found this to be true of highly gifted people~either they are longing for normalcy or they are lacking in emotional maturity for lack of it~note i did NOT say ALL gifted people.) Rumi is the first-born child of Indian immigrants in Cardiff, Wales. When she is five she is identified by her teacher as "gifted", needing to be nurtured by the system (including joining Mensa). The "gifted" label comes as no surprise to her father, Mahesh, a mathematician himself, while at the same time he feels insulted that anyone would expect anything less. He feels he can nurture her genius himself and institutes an extremely strict regime so that she may pass her O levels early and her A levels by fourteen (whatever that means~i really must brush up on the British school system) which allows her no other life.

Rumi's mother Shreene feels ever more distanced from her daughter as Rumi is forced to study (the prison-like regime reminding Shreene of a similar one enforced when the newly married couple first immigrated) and the only way she can relate to her daughter is by repeating the trite Indian sayings that peppered her own upbringing and for which she finds poor English translations. Shreene longs for her native country and feels betrayed and misled by her husband who was vague about their possible return.

Rumi finds some relief in two visits made to India where she feels kinship with her extended family and finds some commonality with the people there. She also enjoys play with her younger brother Nibu. She becomes a cumin-seed addict (i must admit, i've never known one of those...) and prone to sneaking off to perform all sorts of nefarious activities. I quite enjoyed this novel and found all the characters quite believable as well as likable "in their own way" (so to speak). I must say the ending hit me a tad unexpectedly.

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