Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Anuradha Roy weaves an evocative and deeply moving tale of a young woman making a new life for herself amid the foothills of the Himalaya. Desperate to leave a private tragedy behind, Maya abandons herself to the rhythms of the little village, where people coexist peacefully with nature. But all is not as it seems, and she soon learns that no refuge is remote enough to keep out the modern world. When power-hungry politicians threaten her beloved mountain community, Maya finds herself caught between the life she left behind and the new home she is determined to protect.
Setting: Modern day Ranikhet, India
My Copy Came From: I purchased a used paperback copy from a local library sale.
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Review: Beautifully written, but slow. The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy is mainly set in Ranikhet, India, near the Himalayas. The mountain setting is as much a character as anyone, and the writing about the area was beautiful.
The high peaks were lost in the monsoon mist. “If you told a stranger that there are actually big snow peaks where that sky is,” she said, “would he believe you? What can he see but an ordinary, everyday sky that he can find anywhere? But you and I know the peaks are there. We are surrounded by things we don’t know and can’t understand.”
Told from the point of view of Maya, whose husband was killed while hiking, Maya escapes the city of Hyderabad to live in Ranikhet. Maya becomes friends with a local girl, Charu, and her landlord, Diwan Sahib, who has long been working on a book about Jim Corbett (that link goes to Wikipedia).
There isn’t a whole lot of plot in The Folded Earth. Much of the book focuses on Maya and her grief, and with Charu falling in love with a visiting worker and deciding whether or not to leave the mountains. There are also sections about people from the cities coming in and changing the landscape of Ranikhet and how that affects the locals.
Michael’s yearnings made me understand how it is that some people have the mountains in them while some have the sea. The ocean exerts an inexorable pull over sea people wherever they are—in a bright-lit, inland city or the dead center of a desert—and when they feel the tug there is no choice but somehow to reach it and stand at its immense, earth-dissolving edge, straightaway calmed. Hill people, even if they are born in flatlands, cannot be parted for long from the mountains. Anywhere else is exile. Anywhere else, the ground is too flat, the air too dense, the trees too broad-leaved for beauty. The color of the light is all wrong, the sounds nothing but noise.
I found myself enjoying the rhythm of the words and the writing, but then I’d get so hypnotized by the words, I’d realize that I had no idea what I just read and then had to re-read several pages before getting it figured out. This happened throughout the entire book, except for maybe the last twenty pages, as those last twenty pages had quite a punch to them!
I would not look into the future. My life had been too cruelly overturned once before for me to think of anything but the present moment. I would negotiate each day as if I were riding a leaf in a flowing stream: enough to stay afloat. I would not ask for more.
While I did enjoy this read, the ending and the setting is what will stick with me. That ending was equal parts love and hate for me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this read since I finished the book. While I’m not sure I would ever re-read it, if you’re looking for a quieter read with a focus on characters instead of plot, you might really enjoy this.
Bottom Line: Beautiful and slow, with a strong ending.