Another book from my 20 Books of Summer project so I’m getting through them nicely and should reach the target some time in August. I’m deep into marathon training at the moment, which, although it does involve lots of running and yoga, also involves making time to rest and recover properly. This means staying in bed in the early mornings if I don’t HAVE to run upstairs to do work and getting nice early nights with a read first. Good at any time, of course, but necessary, as I learned last time round, for a decent experience in training. Anyway, here’s Book 12 of 20BooksOfSummer, which only has one very short bit of running in it!

Farahad Zama – “Mrs Ali’s Road to Happiness”

(05 December 2016 – BookCrossing Birmingham Not So Secret Santa from Sian)

In the fourth book in the Marriage Bureau for Rich People series, we start off with lots of uncomfortable new things – a new imam in the local mosque who seems to be influencing young men to become more devout (where the usual pattern is to  mess around in youth and become more religious in old age), a new pharmacist, a new, devious electricity meter inspector and then, later in the book, news of a road-widening scheme that will affect Mr and Mrs Ali’s house. So far, so unsettling, but stronger powers are at work and things get significantly darker.

An election seems to be stirring up religious arguments in the sleepy and tolerant town in which the book is set, and both extremist Hindus (who fortunately Rehman Ali has infiltrated on behalf of his ex-girlfriend) and militant Muslims at the mosque (including relatives and old friends) get steamed up and agitated about the Alis’ niece, Pari, bringing up her Hindu adopted son, Vasu, even though she wants to keep his connection to his own religion but he also understands Urdu and goes to Muslim festivals. Both want the boy removed and “protected” and things get quite nasty and threatening.

However, all this aggressive and worrying stuff is leavened by the kindness of the Alis’ village relatives and the lovely story of a carefully chosen present among many (Mrs Ali makes very sure that none of her niece Faiz’s sisters-in-law are given saris of the same “absolute or relative worth”: “as much thought had gone into selecting the saris as into any military campaign by Alexander the Great”), which quite literally backfires.

There is hope that all will be resolved through the cleverness of Mrs Ali and the other ladies, playing the protagonists, men of religion and politicians off against each other in a complicated plan that might just work, but you’ll have to read the book to find out (actually, really you need to read all the other books in the series before this one – it would just about work as a standalone but is much richer seen as part of its series). It’s a warm and charming, but deeper than it appears, novel of modern India which doesn’t shy away from issues but doesn’t describe anything horrible.

This Book 12 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

I have finished Book 13, as well – Adam Nicolson’s “When God Spoke English” – so look out for that review on Sunday. I have two more I want to fit in this month: Scott Jurek’s “Eat and Run” and Susie Dent’s “How to Talk Like a Local”, before I have a clear run of Persephones and Viragoes next month. I’m reading “Run for your Life” at the moment, but it’s more of a specified mindfulness programme and less a book about general mindfulness and running, so I’m not sure and might put it aside. What are you up to this rainy July?