Nectar In A Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Rukmani, a peasant from a village in India, lives a life of constant struggle, yet she is a source of strength for many. At age twelve she marries a man she has never met and moves with him to his rented farmland. Over the years their marriage fills with love, mutual respect, and children: one daughter and many sons. A tannery built near their village forever alters Rukmani's life, for the tannery takes away farmland and silence, and while it provides jobs, they come with great costs. The changes in village life from an agricultural to an industrial community frighten Rukmani; her life becomes one of "Hope and fear. Twin forces that tugged at us first in one direction and then in another...Fear, constant companion of the peasant. Hunger, ever present to jog his elbow should he relax. Despair, ready to engulf him should he falter." Kenny, a white doctor in Rukmani's village, watches with a palpable foreboding his patients' daily struggle to survive. He leaves the village suddenly and often, and just as suddenly reappears, as if life there is too much for him yet he can't stay away. Rukmani and Kenny's conversations make apparent their individual and shared suffering, and while their experiences of the world are completely different, their friendship is based on respect and mutual reliance. Nectar In A Sieve is a powerful, depressing, but ultimately hopeful novel of a life lived with love, faith, and inner strength.

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