A Fine Balance

Rohinton Mistry

i kept noticing people reading this on the train and then laura was reading it when i visited her in montreal. it turns out it’s an Oprah book, which is probably why so many people were reading it.

i like epics lately — this one takes place in india following a widow struggling to maintain her independence, a college student who rents a room in her flat, and two tailors she hires. Om and Ishvar, the tailors, feel like the center of the book to me. they are the sole survivors of their family due to caste violence in their village and especially seem to fall prey to realizations of the student Maneck’s pessimistic theory that everything goes bad in the end.

in some ways it gets to be like a Dickens tragedy, but comes across far less melodramatic. the characters collect between them most of the sadnesses of the world and for all the hope that they can surpass it together, in the end Maneck’s pessimism seems well-founded. the book ends pretty sad, i have to say. laura finished this right before i started it, and it felt less difficult having known that from the start.

some of the metaphors (namely the sewing and chess related ones) border on overwrought, but there is a sincere truth to them at the same time.

… our lives are but a sequence of accidents — a clanking chain of chance events. A string of voices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life.