"Rumi Vasi is 10 years, 2 months, 13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds old. She’s figured that the likelihood of her walking home from school with the boy she likes, John Kemble, is 0.2142, a probability severely reduced by the lacy dress and thick woolen tights her father, and Indian émigré, forces her to wear. Rumi is a gifted child, and her father, Mahesh, believes that strict discipline is the key to nurturing her genius if the family has any hope of making its mark on its adoptive country."
Read lightly, this could be read as an indictment of the drive for perfection that characterizes Asian cultures. However, Lalwani delicately avoids this simplistic trap through an enthralling style of prose, the different viewpoints, and paradoxically the bravery with which she allows Rumi's world to implode into a parental nightmare.
Oh how you feel for Rumi. Her father wants the very, very best for her. The sections in his voice are bitter and isolationist from his peers but still invoke enough sympathy-he really wants her to succeed. Her mother desperately wants to be in India, and for that matter, so does Rumi who finds India is be free of the pressures of life in the UK. There's a good reason for that for her mother is trying to raise her daughter with the strictures of her own childhood not realizing that it'd render Rumi unprotected for the UK society she lives in. She is mathematically precocious, a talent ferociously nurtured by her father, but she still is a young girl and later a teenager. She wants to fit in, be able to do the things kids her age should do-buy candy, kiss the boy she wants to, and just be. But she is still driven by mathematics-she likens the boy she likes to amicable numbers. A truly unique viewpoint to be depicted in literature.
Her implosion and breakdown is quite natural. She becomes addicted to cumin and achieves her father's dream of reaching mathematical pinnacle. But the social and personal sacrifices leave her without any supportive framework and she steadily declines until she breaks free. Pretty much, in general, Lalwani's strength is how close this book comes to the truth. She takes some well known narratives, that of education leading to success and the immigrant need to secure themselves in their new countries, and explores them to their worst conclusion which retaining the humanity.
An excellent random find on the library shelves.