Manjul BajajWith an interesting mix of themes and clever plots, Another Man’s Wife is a vivid medley of prose fiction that I enjoyed immensely.

Stark in its appeal, the opening story, ‘Ripe Mangoes’, deals with the primal urge of a young Muslim woman, who is trapped with an older man, to be loved. Her journey to seek love, her legitimate desire, turns her into a scheming mother whose identity blurs when she is challenged by her own daughter.

Readers invest into characters as they read and they subconsciously side with a few. I loved ‘Crossed Border’ but the twist in the tail didn’t go down very well with me.

‘Birthmark’ has a good social message. I was truly moved, though I thought a linear narrative would have worked better.

I found ‘Me and Sammy Fernandez’ interesting too, particularly the relationship of Cory with her father-in-law.

The narrative of ‘Marrying Nusrat’ rambled. The story of a woman’s cooperative in a village near Lucknow felt mundane, somewhat labored. The reason, perhaps, was its fattened up prose.

‘A Deepavali Gift’ is a delicate inquiry where roots of an individual are delightfully juxtaposed with unfamiliar acceptance. I found this story of giving, and moving on, very powerful indeed.

‘Under the Moonlit Sky’ has a muddle in-between that had set up obvious expectations about where the story was headed. But in the end, the story ran downhill along an altogether different course, as it climaxed, I thought, rather decadently.

In ‘The Lottery’ faith and reality collide to reveal the dark side of taking small family decisions.

‘Another Man’s Wife, balances desire and dissent through the lives of a displaced tribal family who have to learn fast to survive. The character of the tribal woman Kuheli is both bold and vulnerable in equal measure.

Overall, a good collection of short fiction that explore the themes of love, desire and intimacy.

(Another Man’s Wife and Other Stories, was shortlisted for The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013.)

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