“People are defined by what they love and what they hate” starts the story of Lata Bai and her daughter Mamta. Lata Bai lives a life of disappointment. Married to an indentured servant who can’t see a life for himself or his family beyond the farm he has to care for, Lata Bai knows that the only thing she can do is take pleasure in the small things in her life like telling her daughters myths and other stories from her childhood.
At 20 years old and unmarried, Mamta is looked upon by all as being too old for marriage. If she receives any offers of marriage, it wouldn’t matter what her future-husband is like, her father will take it. The author doesn’t shield readers from the harsh lives that mothers and daughters live through. Arraigned marriages are the norm and it’s in a woman’s best interest to produce as many sons as possible or they could be thrown out of their houses so their husbands can get a new wife. It’s not usual for some wives to have fatal cooking “accidents”. Someone’s Else Garden is the story of not just the cruelty of social norms for mothers and daughters but also the love that the two can have for each other.
Rai’s writing is so real that I felt heartbreak when Lata Bai gave Mamta away at her wedding. Often times a mother will never see her daughter again once she’s married. I also felt heartbreak for Mamta who dreamt of having a husband who loves her instead of one who ends up beating her. Rai doesn’t hold back from describing everyday life in rural India but readers are never overwhelmed either.
I think this is an excellent book for readers who want to know more about cultures other than their own. Someone Else’s Garden is a book that took me out of my reading comfort zone and placed me firmly in the shoes of great characters.