It is October 31st, 1984, and fifteen-year-old Maya – half Hindu, half Sikh – is travelling from Canada to New Delhi, India, with her father. In her arms she carries only two things: a brand new diary – her only confidant – and the ashes of her mother.
Maya and her father have comes to India to deliver the ashes to their final resting place. On the very night they arrive, Indira Gandhi – Prime Minister of India – is gunned down in her garden, betrayed by those closest to her. In the hours that follow, the city plunges into chaos, and Maya finds herself ay the centre of one of the bloodiest massacres in the country’s modern history. Thousands are murdered. Thousands are lost.
Unable to find her father, Maya must disguise her identity and rely upon the help of Sandeep – a boy she’s just met – is she is to stay alive and make it home. That is, if she can open her heart enough to love, forgive, and discover what home truly means.
Karma is a beautifully written book about self-discovery, and what it means to love.
Not my usual genre of YA book, I was blown away by Karma – the writing, the story, description and characters all drew me in and kept me captive for the length of the book (and it’s not short!). Maya is an Indian-Canadian teenage girl. The story is written through verse, and is Maya’s diary. Through her, we learn about her family, culture, and life in a small prairie town. Despite the cultural differences, and some family problems, Maya is very much like any other Canadian teenager. It is only after she and her father travel to India to deliver her mother’s ashes to the final resting place that Maya’s life changes drastically, and her emotions, turmoil and uncertainty are reflected perfectly in the short poems that make up the story of Karma.
An aspect I really liked is that for the middle section of the book, the reader is given the point of view of Sandeep, the boy that takes care of Maya while she is in India, lost without her father and mute from the horror she has seen after the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister. It is immediately apparent when the voice of the story changes, and I grew to like Sandeep very quickly – he’s blunt, observative, kind and fun. He looked after Maya to the best of his ability, and even runs away from home to help her find her father in New Delhi. Sandeep and Maya grow to have a deep connection, and the ending of the novel left me angry on their behalf, but hopeful that things would all work out in the long run.
The short poetry that makes up Karma’s story is written beautifully, and really lets the reader into the details of Maya’s and Sandeep’s lives. Cathy Ostlere’s writing is very emotional and descriptive – something that I think helps the reader connect to Maya and Sandeep so well. For being a writing style and genre I don’t read very often, I loved Karma to pieces.
Review copy provided by Penguin Canada; thank you!
Karma is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.