My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Many thanks to Netgalley, Bookouture and Renita D’Silva for a chance to read and review this wonderful book.
Sweeping…. Majestic…and Poignant…
This book, The Orphan’s Gift tugs at all the right emotions. It reminds the reader of women who lose so much in their life but still remain strong and resilient which was necessary during these hard times. The author has a way with words that brings each and every scene to color so much that I can see Jamjadpur in front of my eyes even though she has mentioned it is a fictional town. It is so extraordinary that I had a craving for samosas after reading the beautiful description given by Ms. Renita.
The story progresses thru Alice and Janaki. We meet Alice when she is four and the story ends when she is around 70 years old. Alice and her faithful friend Raju grow up together and the Indian summers have never felt more beautiful, mangoes, mosquitoes, scent of jasmine flowers, tamarind, owls, crickets, everything just comes alive in the most beautiful way. Yearning for the unconditional love of her parents who always ignores her, Alice looks toward her Ayah and her son to fill the hole in her heart. As Missy Baba she’s loved by all the servants in the house but the love from her parents never seems forthcoming.
Janaki is brought up in an orphanage but she too desires a parent’s love, someone to call her own. The hope in each child’s mind when an adoptive parent visits the orphanage is written so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes. Janaki then goes thru a very traumatic time after losing the people she loved unconditionally so much that she closes herself off from all emotional attachments and goes on to achieve the greatest success as a doctor.
There are some remarkable women described in the story that remain in our heart even when the past page is done. The Orphan’s Gift is a tale of love, its joy, the grief of losing it, heartbreaks, the repercussions occurring during India’s struggle for independence and communal riots that cuts a friend and enemy alike, the story offers so much to a reader that one can’t help but feel all the emotional upheaval that occurs in Alice’s and Janaki’s life. And of course, having idols like Mother Teresa and Gandhiji mentioned adds a spark to light up the story.
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She allows herself to kiss her perfect child just once. She wraps the baby in her last gift: a hand-knitted cardigan, embroidered with a water lily pattern. ‘You’re better off without me,’ she whispers and although every step breaks her heart, she walks away.
1910, India. Young and curious Alice, with her spun-gold hair, grows up in her family’s sprawling compound with parents as remote as England, the cold country she has never seen. It is Raju, son of a servant, with whom she shares her secrets. Together, their love grows like roses – but leaves deep thorns. Because when they get too close, Alice’s father drags them apart, sending Raju far away and banishing Alice to England…
1944. Intelligent and kind Janaki is raised in an orphanage in India. The nuns love to tell the story: Janaki’s arrival stopped the independence riots outside the gates, as the men on both sides gazed at the starry-eyed little girl left in a beautiful hand-knitted cardigan. Janaki longs for her real mother, the woman who was forced to abandon her, wrapped in a precious gift…
Now old enough to be a grandmother and living alone in India, Alice watches children play under the tamarind trees, haunted by the terrible mistake she made fifty years ago. It’s just an ordinary afternoon, until a young girl with familiar eyes appears with a photograph and Alice must make a choice. Will she spend the rest of her life consumed by dreams of the past, or can she admit her mistakes and choose love and light at last?