The Abundance, by Amit Majmudar

Mala and Ronak are adults now. They’ve married, begun their own families and moved away from the suffocating world of their first generation immigrant parents. But when they learn that their mother has only months to live, the focus of their world returns to her home.

Having shown little interest in the Indian cuisine they eat at every gathering, Mala decides to master the recipes her mother learned at her own mother’s knee. And as they cook together, mother and daughter begin to confront the great divisions of their lives, and finally heal their fractured relationship. But when Ronak comes up with a plan to memorialise his mother, the hard-won peace between them is tested to its limits.

The cover also attracted me: it was possibly the most colourful book I could find.

The cover also attracted me: it was possibly the most colourful book I could find.

When I bought this book, from a W.H.Smith in Victoria station, I was tired. I was tired, a little grumpy from travelling and the extra one-and-a-half hours I had yet to travel on Southern Rail, and I was just looking for a simple and gentle read. Besides, I had already picked out another book, and it was buy one get one half price.
The blurb was what attracted me to this book: it looks like a typical women’s bonding book. You know the sort of book I mean: women come together and learn empathy and such. Now, this is not by any means the kind of book I actively enjoy, but it’s a safe choice for a relaxing read and a destraction from my growing terror of travelling via train.

Having made these assumptions, I was a little surprised by the actual contents of the book. First of all, I thought that it would be written from the perspective of the daughter, or in the third person, whereas actually it is written from the perspective of their mother. This makes it a great deal more interesting, especially because of the sympathy which Majmudar has for his main character. She is an Indian-born woman living in America. She is firm in maintaining her traditions, most of all the tradition of the mother literally nurturing the family through food. While I am not familiar with Indian traditions myself, Majmudar manages both to be sympathetic to his narrator and to her children (who pursue a far more Western lifestyle).

While I initially thought that The Abundance would be about a mother and daughter bonding over food and cooking, it is in fact about a family. The impending death of the mother through cancer is used as a catalyst for her to reflect on their lives together, as well as the death of her own mother. Mala and Ronak are both interesting characters as we see them grow up, especially when they are seen through the mother’s eyes – she learns things about them, which were originally hidden, all the time.

This was a beautiful book to read, one of those which feels somehow nurturing to the soul. It encourages readers to think about the way others behave with compassion, rather than judgement. I would recommend it to anyone with a horrendous train journey, or a stressful day, ahead of them.

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