Book Review: A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy

Fascinating stories about Indian culture and society

ATapestryofTearsAbout the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels and fights to save her offspring.  The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Book Facts

  • Format: ebook
  • No. of pages: 204
  • Publication date: 2nd November 2016
  • Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

To purchase A Tapestry of Tears from, click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)

Find A Tapestry of Tears on Goodreads 

My Review

Subtitled ‘Short Stories from India’, A Tapestry of Tears comprises twelve short stories, of varying lengths, which explore different aspects of Indian culture, in particular family relationships.  As is often the case with short story collections, some stories are more compelling than others.

The standout story is the one that gives the collection its title, A Tapestry of Tears. This explores the dreadful tradition or parampara prevalent amongst some families in early 19th century India of killing (or to use the euphemism, ‘putting to sleep’) girl infants, using the sap of the akk plant. To make it even more terrible, a mother was expected to administer the poison herself. Known as kurimaar, this awful practice stemmed from a belief that a wife was for begetting sons.

Daughters weakened the clan. Having a daughter meant bowing one’s head to whoever would wed her. It also meant dowry. Daughters were of no use. You fed them and clothed them, and they went away to serve in another’s house.’

Through the story of one wife and mother, Veeranwali, we see the impact of the custom on the women forced to participate in it.   Their only solace is to record their lost daughters in the form of embroidery on a traditional bagh phulkari chadar, a cotton shawl embroidered with silk. Gradually we see the power of women coming together in mutual support, quiet resistance and solidarity to overturn the practice of female infanticide. In time, the creation of the bagh becomes a celebration not a remembrance of their cherished daughters.  You can see a few examples of phulkari here .

Another story I liked was the deliciously dark ‘The Quizzing Glass’ in which a man who arrogantly believes he has learned to read the minds of others from their gestures and body language – including that of his poor wife – finds it less comfortable when the spotlight is turned on his own character.

I would also single out ‘The Prisoner’, the heart-warming tale of Mira, rejected by her mother because of her disability. Mira has learned to shun social contact despite being bright but finds that not all of the world views her in the same malevolent fashion as her mother.

I really enjoyed reading this collection of stories. The author has a clear, readable style and I liked the fact that explanatory information was provided for some words that might be unfamiliar to readers outside India. Although the stories are situated in Indian culture and society, they address some themes that are universal: family, love and death.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest review.

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GitaVReddyAbout the Author

Gita V.Reddy is a writer of fiction for middle-graders and adults. She enjoys thinking up tales of different genres. She has written mysteries, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and even an animal tale for children. She wrote and illustrated her first picture book for kids in August, 2015. She plans to write a few more because the experience was very satisfying. Ms Reddy was born in India, is a post graduate in Mathematics, worked in a bank for twenty-six years, is married to a physics professor, has a son doing research in neuro-electronics, and loves literature. Yes, her life is as mixed up as the multiple genres she writes.  She enjoys painting and spending time with her family, and LOVES walking in the rain. She also writes under the name Heera Datta.

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