“The saga of an Indian family steeped in tradition trying to find its niche in the suburbs of Chicago . . . Engrossing” (Booklist).
“Funny and romantic and heartbreaking” (St. Petersburg Times), this novel is narrated by Francisco D’Sai, a firstborn son of a firstborn son—all the way back to the beginning of a long line of proud Konkans, the so-called “Jews of India,” who abandoned their Hindu traditions, knelt before Vasco da Gama’s sword and Saint Francis Xavier’s cross, and became Catholics.
In Chicago in the early 1970s, Francisco’s Konkan father, Lawrence, wants desperately to assimilate into American culture—pursuing a corporate job and launching an uphill battle to join the local country club. But Francisco’s American mother, Denise, a Peace Corps veteran who finds the suburbs utterly boring, wants to preserve the family’s heritage, feeding Francisco’s imagination with proud visions of India and Konkan history—with enthusiastic help from her recently arrived brother-in-law. Sometimes it seems like she’s more excited about her husband’s background and culture than about her marriage.
From the author of Whiteman, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize, this is a witty, wrenching portrait of generational, cultural, marital, and historical conflict, seen through one family’s experience.
“[A] savvy storyteller with a clear, soulful voice.” —Entertainment Weekly
“D’Souza’s compelling tale of one extended family’s trials and triumphs in a foreign land is an astute glimpse of the challenges, dangers, and rewards of assimilation.” —The Boston Globe
D'Souza follows up the promise of Whiteman (2006) with this moving portrait of a Indian-American family. Narrator Francisco D'Sai descends partially from a small group of Konkans, former Hindus converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese in the 16th century. His American mother, Denise, met and married his father, Lawrence, while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s. The couple moves to Chicago, where Francisco is born and where Lawrence is obsessed with assimilation and achieving the American dream. In contrast, Francisco's uncle Sam, whom Denise insists they sponsor to America, is a much more soulful man who retains his Indian identity. Sam tells fabulous tales of Konkan culture and is adored by both Francisco and Denise, whose infatuation with India persists even as her love for Lawrence dwindles. The author moves deftly from character to character, detailing Denise's Peace Corps days and subsequent suburban boredom, Lawrence's grim struggle up the corporate ladder (his mission to earn acceptance by a country club is particularly sad) and Sam's search for purpose amid his troubling love for Denise. D'Souza puts a fresh spin on the theme of cultural alienation, and he achieves something even more universal as he shows how the characters are alone together in their family.