As Sweet As Honey by Indira Ganesan
(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "In her latest novel, Indira Ganesan...gives us an enchanting story of family life that is a dance of love and grief and rebirth set on a gorgeous island in the Indian Ocean. The island is filled with exotic flora and fauna and perfumed air. A large family compound is presided over by a benign, stalwart grandmother. There is a very tall South Asian heroine with the astonishing un-Indian name of Meterling, who has found love at last in the shape of a short, round, elegant English-man who wears white suits. There are also numerous aunts, uncles, and young cousins--among them, Mina, grown now, and telling this story of a marriage ceremony that ends with a widowed bride who, in the midst of her grief, discovers she is pregnant. While enjoying their own games and growing pains, Mina and her young cousins follow every nuance of gossip, trying to puzzle out what is going on with their favorite aunt, particularly when the groom's cousin arrives from England and begins to woo her. As Meterling--torn between Eastern and Western ideas of love and family, duty and loyalty--struggles to make a new life, we become as entranced with this family, its adventures and complications, as Mina is. And with her we celebrate a time and place where, although sometimes difficult, life was for the most part as sweet as honey."
I have a sister-in-law that is from India, so I was very interested in this story. Mina makes a point of the family not being Indian, but Islanders, and so I guess it's different, but some of the customs seem similar. The island they lived on seemed like a little piece of paradise. The descriptions of the island left me wanting to go there. The characters in this book are well developed and life-like. I liked Meterling, Simon, Mina, Sanjay, and Rasi. It was interesting to learn about an adult through a child's viewpoint. Things that may have been important to an adult were not important to the child, and the reverse would be true as well. Although it provided a different viewpoint, I didn't love it in this case. Having the niece narrate the story of her aunt just didn't really fit. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I think it may be because I never really felt connected to Meterling herself. There was a definite disconnect there. Also, Ms. Ganesan has a very different writing style that took me a long time to get used to. Whereas some reviewers loved it, I didn't. I found it difficult to read and understand. Ms. Ganesan also used a lot of Indian terms, which makes sense, but because I didn't know those terms it left me to guess their meanings, and consequently, I'm sure I lost a lot of meaning and content. There were also a lot of family members, and I tried, but I couldn't figure out who was who. By the end of the story I was a little more invested, but still never quite felt attached.
There really isn't any language in this book, or violence. A character dies at the beginning of the story, but it's not too graphic or violent. There is talk of procreation and "intimacy" in this book, along with some kissing.
Rating: PG-13 (Some kissing, talk of procreation and "intimacy," but no scenes. No language)
Recommendation: 16 and up
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.