Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marina DelVecchio Reviews Shiva's Arms

What Cheryl Snell does with Shiva’s Arms is quite captivating and inspirational. This is more than a book about the forced marriage of two estranged cultures, each one forced to coexist with the other despite their differences in customs and belief systems. It is about love and acceptance; it is about the need to belong and feel part of something that is bigger than you. It is the hunger that drives us to be seen and understood by those that share our paths in life. This is the narrative thread that embroiders itself around the story line of this book. Amma Shiva is a small and forceful Indian woman who holds on to her family and traditions with severity, with pride, and loyalty. Alice is a softer version of her — but just as fierce to defend her home, her love for Ramesh and their son, Sam. There is an intensely emotional mother-daughter narrative at play in Shiva‘s Arms, in which mother and daughter need to see one another not just as “mother” and “daughter,” but as women — two separate and independent entities sharing the same goal — the fulfillment of one’s son and the happiness of the other’s husband. There is absolute calm and redemption when each one succeeds in the mutual acceptance they both secretly seek. Because of the impassioned loyalty that resides within, each woman is able to push through the muck and mire of difference and possessiveness that governs their relationship to discover a braver, more forgiving and accepting version of herself. It is definitely highly recommended for your list of 2011 reading — the kind that lulls you towards self-enlightenment and acceptance. And if you have an affinity for Indian dishes, the back pages of the book are filled with delicacies discussed within the story line. Good reading, everyone!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sheila Deeth Reviews Rescuing Ranu

“How can we tell whether a bird is being chased or leading?” asks Nela, trying to analyze the motion she sees in the sky. Author Cheryl Snell leads her readers to view the world through different eyes in this intricate novel, Rescuing Ranu, and her story is a delight to follow.
Flying home from India, Nela sits next to a westerner on the plane and muses on math and the importance of seeing someone’s eyes. Sitting together in a car, two mathematicians smile, “You iterate and I converge.” Mathematician that I am, I’m hooked. But lyrical descriptions of Indian tradition are equally enticing, and pages pass in a fire-fly dance of otherness, belonging and story.
The author conveys the passion of mathematical mystery just as beautifully as that of love, and opens the worlds of university, India and mathematics to delightful scrutiny. But Jackson and Nela don’t just come from different geographical places. The mystery of family ties and separation fuel their relationship too, and Nela’s relationships with her future, job and students.
Particularly impressive is the author’s ability to include Indian words and concepts without need for obvious explanation. Images flow naturally and vividly with powerful emotions. The scene shifts; one leads, one follows, and in India little Ranu flits, sometimes young, sometimes old, on a path that skirts disaster. Perhaps love plots the turning shape of the graph.
In the end, a story that starts on one part of a circle ends on another, but the circle’s the same, unbroken despite the distance it lies across. Nela completes her best work, and hope and story survive. Lyrical in scope, in symbolism, and in plot, Rescuing Ranu is like making sense of mystery without all the answers; a novel that feels balanced, right and new, with a delightful sense of the old.