Karma by Cathy Ostlere
Rating: PG-13; 5 stars
Summary: It is 1984, and Maya is on her way from her home in Canada to her parents' native India. She is traveling with her father to give Maya's mother a proper Sikh funeral. Once she arrives in India, however, everything changes. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Sikh body guards shoot and kill her, and now it seems the entire city is out for Sikh blood. Struggling to stay safe, Maya and her father are separated. Thus begins Maya's journey through a foreign land, where she will learn just how strong she really is.
Opinions: This book was a treasure. And I mean that in multiple ways. But, before I continue, I'm going to caution that I may very well be biased. I love verse novels to an extreme, and I'm also obsessed with India, due to the fact that I took Hindi classes a few years ago. There. Now that that's out of the way, I'll continue.
I had only a vague idea of what this book was about when I checked it out. I saw “verse novel” and “India” and immediately checked it out from the library. So, I was surprised to find out that the whole book wasn't about the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Sure, that influenced most of the book, but it actually wasn't as big as I thought it would be.
I found the format of the book to be utilized very well. Telling a story through a diary or journal is very easily cliched, even more so when the novel is written in verse as well. However, I found that it was used very skillfully here. There were many times that I forgot it was a diary altogether.
I also found that the shifting perspectives worked to the book's advantage. Too often having multiple points of view can be jarring or confusing to the reader, but this definitely worked. It was used with skill and it made sense in the context of the plot and the development of the characters.
I read close to half this book in one sitting because I was hooked so much. Granted, I read verse novels much quicker than prose novels, but this one still clocks in at over 500 pages. This book really draws in the reader. It is captivating and hard to put down. The setting is used richly, and I personally loved the Hindi thrown into the mix.
I gave this book 5 stars because I really did love it. I'd been experiencing a sort of reading slump until I got into this book and polished it off in about 2 days, which considering I work in the afternoon and evening, is kind of astonishing. I rated it PG-13 for violence and some implied sexual content. All the swearing I can recall is in Hindi, but that doesn't mean there isn't any English swearing. I just only remember the foreign cursing. There were several typos throughout the book, but these weren't enough to lower the book's rating.
This is an excellent book, although I don't think it is for everyone. It is a verse novel, which some people won't like, and it also relies heavily on the setting, so if reading about foreign lands isn't appealing, you probably won't like this book. However, I really enjoyed it, and I think that many people will too.