Quite enjoyed reading this refreshing tale , set in period Tam brahm context ..with just the right quantum of characters keeping the young audience very well in mind. Metaphorically capturing the angst of a ten year old in her search for and confusion about her own adopted identity .
Avantika is a considerate sensitive child , and her age and stage add to her being impressionable , which as a child she is . All what she hears from around her – friends who are simple kids who don't mince words …unkind words and innuendos from her cousins and kin – augment her self doubt. Affection she feels she is entitled to as a child , is not what she receives as an adopted child in a conservative Tamil Brahmin family with just a few sensible folks that constitute mostly just her parents and paternal grandparents .
The aspect about herself most exaggerated in her childly consciousness of her own self, is her curly hair that seems to have a mind of its own . Her discomfiture about the curly tresses , is beautifully depicted by the author in being representative really of her own insecurities as one of the adopted siblings to Radha and Vincent – her parents themselves impacted in parts by isolation from atleast Radha’s mother when Radha married someone of her own choice .
Quite nicely balanced in navigating a serious theme riding on the emotions of an impacted adolescent – well a tiny point of detraction could be that at times Avantika’s actions and thought responses to situations appear to be more matured than her age ( but I may stand corrected on this point as children more often than not surprise you with their preciosity , I discover it myself pleasantly with my teenaged and adolescent daughters respectively , all the time). The choice of curly hair as the artefact for story telling is so brilliant that it melds seamlessly into the fabric of growing up and grooming and concomitant angsts.
The two strongest characters in the book are Avantika and Saraswathy, her grand mother – each having been caricatured excellently through some superlative writing , with just enough nuances palatable for a young audience . I just felt the aspect of poignance could have been leveraged one level more for Avantika – there was maybe, an opportunity connecting to the emotional dilemmas from the less than perfect worlds for adopted tiny existences .
The detailing of the south Indian lifestyle has been lovely – well , could it have been a tiny dollop more keeping the target age group ; especially the junior diaspora who may have not had the first hand conversance with idyllic life in a sleepy town in India would have relished the vicarious journey sweetly .
Those are very minor points . All in all , a superb debut effort deftly dealing with a themes highly relevant in contemporary times , and delivering it effortlessly to the target audience . Kudos to Lakshmi Iyer.