Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: Karma by Cathy Ostlere

Title: Karma
Author: Cathy Ostlere
Publisher: Razorbill
ARC, 521 pages
Date Published: March 31, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world. KARMA is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love.
Karma is a story that should be read; Not only for its subject matter – a massacre in India that I never knew happened – but for its beauty. Cathy Ostlere tells the story through diary entries and imbues her words with more emotion than I could have ever imagined. A mere 10 pages in and I was teary-eyed and connected to 15 year old Maya. I felt the loss of her mother like a weight in the pit of my stomach. Small details, like the way Maya’s father clutches her mother’s urn, speak volumes. Details like that litter the pages of this verse novel.

Maya’s journey to a country she barely knows, let alone understands, is jarring. Each of her emotions jumps off the page in flowing, vivid verse. Historical events are weaved flawlessly into story, making everything even more tense. The half of the book from Sandeep’s POV is just as well-written as Maya’s half. His emotions, though much more sarcastic, are as raw and honest. Each of them has their own story to tell, they just happen to come together.

Ostlere gives the reader a view into the life of a girl torn between two worlds and two religions. Hindu and Sikh people war against one another and Maya feels caught in the middle, part of each, but never really comfortable with either. I was drawn in by the massacre – and it is a massacre, with violence and death – and couldn’t help but continue to turn the pages. Maya and Sandeep still linger in my mind. As does the message the book sends. Despite the difficult subject matter, Karma is an addicting read. A quick one too. The ARC tops out at 521 pages, but I read it in day, unable to put it down.

Karma is part historical fiction, part coming-of-age, but 100% heartfelt. From Maya’s sadness, to her fear; her surrender, to her survival; to Sandeep’s courage, compassion and love; each poem leaves the reader with a message. This is a story about surviving. It’s about living through the hardest of circumstances and suffering the most terrible losses, but seeing the hope that still lingers and the goodness that others can still offer. Ostlere shows the reader a world of hatred and cruelty, but ultimately tells us that all is not lost and even though human kind is capable of a great many terrible things, we are also capable of a love like no other.

Opening lines: How to begin. ~ pg. 5

Favorite lines (there are far too many, but here are a few):

The truth of it –
what my two names really mean –
is that I was born into a division
that began long before me. ~ pg. 35

Dear Maya,
Life is an illusion.
And as it turns out, death is as well.
So what is real?
What will remain when we all fade away?
Two things: Love. Forgiveness.
Don’t forget
. ~ pg. 41

There will be a happy
ending. You’ll see.

There’s no such thing, Sandeep.
when something ends, something
is always lost.
~ pg. 447

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Cathy Ostlere online:

Buy it online:


~The Book Pixie said...

Okay first, such a fabulous review girl! Second, I'm pretty sure this one is on its way to me and I'm so excited to read it. Especially after seeing how much you loved it. :D


BrittLit said...

Great review. I'm glad you like it. I'm not sure if I'm ready for another gut-wrenching tale just yet though. Those favorite lines really make me want to read this soon though. I never knew about the massacre either. Thanks for the review.

Candace said...

I don't think I ever heard of this one, but your review has convinced me I MUST read it! I'll definitely have to be sure to pick it up in the future. Thanks for the fabulous review that got it on my radar.

AVY said...

Very well written, makes me interested in the book.

/ Avy

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Book Pixie - Ooh, I hope you get it!! I have a feeling you'll love it :)

BrittLit - Karma is truly a remarkable book and while it may be gut-wrenching, it is so worth reading. All of the horrors have this mirror about the beauty of the world. It's very startling, but also gorgeous at the same time.

Teena in Toronto said...

I read it last week and thought it was excellent!

Bere said...

Brilliant review, Nikki. This is the first review I've read on Karma and I'm completely and beyond intrigued. I really enjoyed reading emotionally intense novels. I'm super sentimental, so if you cried while reading this one, I know for sure I will. I'm excited to get this one now. Thanks, Nikki! =)

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