I love reading literature from other parts of the world: the exercise to see life’s issues from a different perspective, the introduction to the cultural beliefs, foods, clothing, traditions, struggles, ideas, history…these are a few of my favorite things! A House Called Askival by Merryn Glover has all this and more in heaping plate fulls!
Ruth Connor is an American, or is she? She was actually born and raised in India to American Missionary parents. Her father, James, had also been raised in India by American Missionary parents. Neither of them were quite American, nor were they Indian. They both struggled with their sense of belonging. Both had tragic experiences as teenagers, but neither knew the full extent of the other person’s experience. All that they both know is that they are at odds, have been since Ruth’s expulsion from boarding school, and that James is dying.
Ruth had not gained from her childhood what her older sister, Hannah had, and what her parents had hoped she would: a Christian perspective on life. She was scared by having been abandoned at boarding school and placed second to missions on her parents’ list of priorities. Like most children, Ruth had her own understanding of her parents’ personalities and motivations, and, like most children, she didn’t quite know enough about the experiences of her parents, especially those of her father, to be able to draw very accurate conclusions. Ruth’s father had been a teenager through the time period of India’s Partition, and had seen the cruelty between the Muslims, Hindu, and Sikh. He had been caught up in the fear, seen horrible images, and lost loved ones. Ruth was a teenager when fighting between these groups broke out again with the assassination of Gandhi’s wife. She, too, saw the horror and lost a loved one at this time. Some of the scars with which they struggled were very similar. They had far more in common than they realized and could answer so many questions for each other, but will they be able to bring themselves to work it out before death comes for James?
Merryn Glover artistically pieces together the stories of James, Ruth, and India in her debut novel. Her use of language and her broken and braided timeline add to the mysteries buried in both James and Ruth’s pasts. Being that A House Called Askival draws upon the childhood of Glover, herself, the author very knowledgeably and skillfully weaves in the culture, history, and foods that bring the people and the stories to life for the reader. She also weaves in quite a bit of the language of India and the vocabulary of the different religious sects. (Don’t worry! There is a glossary at the back of the book!) Some parts of the jumbled timeline did knock me off my guard from time to time (What year is it? Whose childhood are we reading about now?), but it did not become overly distracting and did add to the mystery and the positive frustration that makes one want to read faster in order to discover whether or not their assumptions are right on.
No matter what your personal spiritual background may be, you will be challenged in your assumptions concerning all of them. If you are anything like me, you will also have your appetite whetted to learn more about the history of India and of her many people groups… and you will probably want your own set of glass bangle bracelets! And a sari. I want a sari!
Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Freight Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.