Kamada Das lives in a vivid world where flowers spring to life from a beggar girl’s footsteps and tiny fairies hold open the eyes of a blind woman, so you can look within and see her story played out before your eyes; where vegetables flirt with each other and flying cockroaches sing songs through broken windows. She wanders the crowded streets of Bombay with a blue folder pressed firmly to her chest to protect herself against those trying to grope her, noticing the fragrant food of the street vendors and the piles of garbage like recalcitrant parents looming over the street.
Kamada’s imagination provide her one way out of the unhappy situations she finds herself in, but at the same time she goes into great detail about her almost-hallucinations, making this a very slow-paced story indeed. Sometimes those with her yell at her to pay attention to what’s going on around her. She has one big dream–to escape India and go to university in America. At 16, she’s preparing for her GRE exam, and a good score and the sponsorship of her best friend’s father will help her realize her dream.
Although she’s surrounded by filth and crowds, Kamada lives in a beautiful house with two nannies at her beck and call, and money’s not a problem for her. That’s because her mother Tara is a high-class prostitute, working for an escort service that caters to international businessmen. Tara has beautiful clothes and expensive make-up and travels all the time, but Kamada is not impressed. There’s little love lost between the two of them, except that Tara is inexplicably jealous and unsupportive of her daughter’s desire to leave.
Author Juliet Philip presents an India crowded with beggars cursing those who are not perceived as generous enough, sidewalks liberally sprinkled with spat-out betel juice and vomit, men who do nothing but attempt to grope any female passing by, and policemen who take their batons to beat young couples who kiss in public. This is also a world crammed full of delicious-sounding snacks served by street vendors, and of maids who spend the day producing wonderful treats in the kitchen.
Overall The Runaway Daughter spends most of its time in the world of Kamada’s imagination, and as a result the rhythm of the book is clunky and action seems unnecessarily slow-paced. It pushes magic realism to its outer limit. Still, I must admit the descriptions of all the colour and chaos of an Indian street and of the food were appealing, as was the heroine, who pushes through many obstacles to realize her dream.
This review is part of a BookSparks book tour. Learn more at BookSparksPR.