Lost and Found

by Sunanda J. Chatterjee

Synopsis

There are nine stories in Ms. Chatterjee’s collection of short stories, one of which is an excerpt from her book, The Vision. All of the stories feature women protagonists. Some of these women are professionals: doctors, lawyers and decorators. Others fill different roles but all are strong and wonderfully-developed characters.

Theme of the Book

The nine stories in this book are about family relationships, but all are told from the perspective of women. In “White Christmas”, for example, three adult children are forced to come to grips with the changes in their mother after the death of their father. In Since When and Turning Tides, adult children cope with their aging parents. There are nuclear families, adoptive families, in-laws, and even a young girl hoping for a family.

What I Liked About the Story

Each story strikes a note of emotional truth. In White Christmas, we feel the disconnect between Melissa, her sister Jessica, and their brother Dominic who all still see their mother as “Mom” and not as an individual with needs and desires of her own. Their mother’s desire to remarry horrifies them and any adult child will understand their feelings as they watch their mother seemingly change before their eyes.

In Turning Tides, a story about a single mother who had invited her father to come and live with her to help raise her son, we find the heart-breaking results of aging and illness. Here, the main character, Alka Singh, is both mother and daughter to her aging father.

My Memsaab tells the story of young Pitoli, a poor girl who finds a substitute mother in the woman who hires her as a servant. Pitoli finds a life very different from that she had lived as the daughter of a tea plantation worker, only to lose that life when Memsaab has to leave the area.

In addition to the beautiful emotional truths in the stories is an insight into Indian life and culture. Two stories, Chicken Curry and Lost and Found are particularly rich in cultural references and will certainly provide the reader with the knowledge and sympathy to appreciate the stories.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

The depth and complexity of the book is somewhat let down by the story Maggie’s Farm, a reworking of the Cinderella story in which it is the prince who plays the usual role of Cinderella. Although the story is very well written, it is too much of a fairy tale to fit well with the other stories in the book. Its ending is predictable, its characters a bit cartoonish.

Final Say

Having never read any of Ms. Chatterjee’s work, I was very pleasantly surprised by the content of Lost and Found. While all the stories feature strong women, the writing cannot be called stridently feminist. It is, rather, truthful, emotional, and honest. I look forward to reading more by this author and will definitely be searching for her novels.

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