The Toss of a Lemon

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9780307356338: The Toss of a Lemon

In south India in 1896, ten-year old Sivakami is about to embark on a new life. Hanumarathnam, a village healer with some renown as an astrologer, has approached her parents with a marriage proposal. In keeping with custom, he provides his prospective in-laws with his horoscope. The problem is that his includes a prediction, albeit a weak one, that he will die in his tenth year of marriage.

Despite the ominous horoscope, Sivakami’s parents hesitate only briefly, won over by the young man and his family’s reputation as good, upstanding Brahmins. Once married, Sivikami and Hanumarathnam grow to love one another and the bride, now in her teens, settles into a happy life. But the predictions of Hanumarathnam’s horoscope are never far from her new husband’s mind. When their first child is born, as a strategy for accurately determining his child’s astrological charts, Hanumarathnam insists the midwife toss a lemon from the window of the birthing room the moment his child appears. All is well with their first child, a daughter, Thangam, whose birth has a positive influence on her father’s astrological future. But this influence is fleeting: when a son, Vairum, is born, his horoscope confirms that his father will die within three years.

Resigned to his fate, Hanumarathnam sets himself to the unpleasant task of readying his household for his imminent death. Knowing the hardships and social restrictions Sivakami will face as a Brahmin widow, he hires and trains a servant boy called Muchami to help Sivakami manage the household and properties until Vairum is of age.

When Sivakami is eighteen, Hanumarathnam dies as predicted. Relentless in her adherence to the traditions that define her Brahmin caste, she shaves her head and dons the white sari of the widow. With some reluctance, she moves to her family home to raise her children under the protection of her brothers, but then realizes that they are not acting in the best interests of her children. With her daughter already married to an unreliable husband of her brothers’ choosing, and Vairum’s future also at risk, Sivakami leaves her brothers and returns to her marital home to raise her family.

With the freedom to make decisions for her son’s future, Sivakami defies tradition and chooses to give him a secular education. While her choice ensures that Vairum fulfills his promise, it also sets Sivakami on a collision course with him. Vairum, fatherless in childhood, childless as an adult, rejects the caste identity that is his mother’s mainstay, twisting their fates in fascinating and unbearable ways.
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From the Back Cover:

"Viswanathan . . . achieves something that is in many way more nuanced than the broad brushstrokes of an epic: a meditation on fate's workings in a family dominated by the quiet rule of one woman." The Washington Post Book World

Sivakami was married at ten, widowed at eighteen, and left with two children. According to the dictates of her caste, her headis shaved and she puts on widow's whites. From dawn to dusk, she is not allowed to contaminate herself with human touch, not even to comfort her small children.

Sivakami dutifully follows custom, except for one defiant act: She moves back to her dead husband's house to raise her children. There, her servant Muchamibecomes her public face. Their singular relationship holds three generations of the family together throughthe turbulent first half of the twentieth century, as India endures great social and political change. But as time passes, the family changes, too;Sivakami's son will question the strictures of the very beliefs that his mother has scrupulously upheld.Heartbreaking, exhilarating, and profoundly exotic, The Toss of a Lemon is above allan evocationof the tensions that change brings to every family."Padma Viswanathan has real talent." New York Times Book Review

"[An] exquisite debut novel. . . . [E]lectrifying." Baltimore Sun Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright and journalist. Her writing awards include residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Banff Playwright's Colony, and first place in the 2006 Boston Review Short Story Contest. Shelives withthe poet and translator Geoffrey Brock and their children in Fayetteville, Arkansas."

About the Author:

Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright and journalist from Edmonton, Alberta. Her writing awards include residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Banff Playwrights’ Colony, and first place in the 2006 Boston Review Short Story Contest. She received her Creative Writing MA from Johns Hopkins and her MFA from the University of Arizona, and lives with her family in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
From the Hardcover edition.

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Viswanathan, Padma
Editore: Random House of Canada Ltd (2009)
ISBN 10: 0307356337 ISBN 13: 9780307356338
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Descrizione libro Random House of Canada Ltd, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: Brand New. 640 pages. 9.25x6.25x1.75 inches. In Stock. Codice libro della libreria zk0307356337

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Padma Viswanathan
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ISBN 10: 0307356337 ISBN 13: 9780307356338
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Descrizione libro Vintage Canada, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0307356337

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