Bodes Well Publishing (2016)
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (10/17)
In “Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken,” Monica Bhide weaves a tale of poverty, compassion and providence that will immediately capture your heart as well as your senses. Set in Delhi, India the story introduces Eshaan, a young man who manages to develop a large circle of friends that represent all segments of society. Raised by Buddhist monks after the distressing death of his mother, Eshaan learns the true meaning of obedience and service. He strongly sympathizes with the poorest of his community since as a child he experienced, firsthand, what it means to be hungry. We are given a peek into Eshaan’s earlier years through his journal entries. His words describe his deepest emotions and tell of his brief relationship with his mother that he desperately tries to hold onto.
Throughout the story, Eshaan fears that his life’s ambitions may be greater than what he is capable of achieving. One of his biggest dreams is to erect a Karma Kitchen to feed the less fortunate. Ironically, his extreme generosity prevents him from accumulating the funds to get the project fully off the ground. When the love of his life comes back to town, Eshaan also finds that she is unattainable. All through the novel, Eshaan builds up a great deal of Karma with his kind works, support and offerings of food, yet, will he ever receive the gifts he truly desires?
Monica Bhide does a superb job of intimately introducing us to her main character, Eshaan. Not only through his actions as described in third person narrative, but by way of his journal entries that so personally express his emotions. It is a technique that I appreciate and find effective, as it is so difficult to really know any one character. In and of themselves, the author’s poetic entries are poignant and powerful pieces of literature.
In addition to her strong character development, Bhide’s renditions of the sights, sounds, and smells of this Indian region are vivid and memorable. From the steaming pots of chai tea to the flaming orange gulmohar trees, the author paints with a full palette of senses that put you directly into a scene. It makes perfect sense that Bhide is also a distinguished food writer who has published several cookbooks; her detailing is inherently full-flavored.
The storyline is appealing as well. I felt like I was one of the neighbors living among this tight-knit set of characters. Witnessing the closeness not only between the two lovers but also between Eshaan and his brotherhood of monks and loyal friends definitely left me wanting more.
Wisdom, lightheartedness and conflict abound in this fast-paced novel. Each chapter spurs you on to the next until you find yourself on the last page suddenly craving for India Butter Chicken. I look forward to reading the sequel to “Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken” and applaud Monica Bhide for this “sense-sational” start to her series.