In this eloquent collection of stories twelve different people from different walks of life discover how one chance meeting with a stranger can change a person forever. Madhu B. Wangu draws from her own Indian-American heritage and examines the lives of ordinary people facing challenging circumstances—cruelty, prejudiced minds, twisted family relationships, unhappy marriages—and demonstrates how these situations transcend ethnicity and background as interactions with strangers force each character to look deep within themselves, often acknowledging painful truths and long-held secrets, in order to seize control of their own destinies and forge their own paths to independence and happiness.
Madhu Bazaz Wangu poignantly weaves a universal message that ties the characters in these stories together, one that applies to anyone who has experienced poverty, jealousy, fear, prejudice, disillusionment, and above all, the feeling of being a foreigner, even within one’s own family.
Secret Healer: One small town boy’s journey from the innocence of childhood to the injustices of servitude before finding shelter with an old man.
Cadmium and Crimson: Two sculptors, one goal—to make masterpieces in three dimensions. The older dedicates his life to art and his younger contemporary to success. Where do their intentions lead them?
Blackened Mirror: A successful artist discovers his authentic self.
A Chance Meeting: A young man treats a total stranger the way he wants to be treated without expecting anything in return to amazing effect.
Yellow Jacket: The protagonist is unable to resolve the guilt caused by the jealousy toward his younger brother as a result of his sudden death.
The Thug: In an intense, frightful hour, a woman realizes the folly of gossip.
A Precious Gift: After her son’s death, a distraught woman learns from her old mother how to cope with loss.
An American Dialogue A synchronic event changes a prejudiced woman’s beliefs about a man from a religion other than her own.
Darkness Behind Eyes: At the age of seventy-two, the deep driving desire of a woman who has wanted to learn to read since her teen years helps her achieve her goal.
Gauri’s Freedom: An arranged marriage dramatically alters a young woman’s plans for her life until she meets another woman by chance who inspires her to take her life into her own hands through determination and self-sufficiency.
Cycle of Life: A young, idealistic woman learns why and how life goes on despite suffering, anguish and physical pain.
Portable Shrine: A writer discovers she is capable of more than she thought through the life lessons learned by the characters in her novel.
I loved, loved, loved this book of wonderful dark yet uplifting, spiritual and emotional, thought provoking short stories. I loved the depth of each story, like a challenge, making me think what lesson I had learnt from each, I couldn't wait to read more to find out what the next story would be about.
Part fiction, part memoir, each powerful story wraps itself around Indian culture, traditions and the love of art, with unforgettable characters, this was a truly fascinating and enjoyable read. My favorites if I have to pick had to be The Blackened Mirror, which really gripped me, next was the powerful, emotive story of love, loss and hope in A Precious Gift with every word seeming to pull at my heartstrings and finally Gauri's Freedom which had me hooked too. One story that really stood out was The Secret Healer, this had my emotions all over the place, such a sad story, which suddenly went off in a completely different, unexpected and painful direction and then ends up filling your heart with joy.
I found myself nodding in agreement, smiling, gasping as I read these short stories. Such wonderful writing by this author, they were like a cleansing of the soul, triggering your mind to think more about each one, or reminding yourself that love changes everything, seeing the true beauty of life, opening your heart and mind and don't be judgemental in life and how easy it can be to stretch the hand of friendship that can change somebody's life.
I also enjoyed reading, at the beginning of the book, about the author's fascinating life , her passion for art and how she was chastised in life for wasting her time on her love of it, the sadness in her life which helped create the some of the stories and especially about her involvement in Vipassana meditation. At the end of the book you are also treated to a chapter of the author's novel, An Immigrant Wife, which again really caught my interest.
This was definitely a book I will read again and probably again!
About the author
A Historian of Asian Religions and Indian Art, Madhu B. Wangu taught Hindu and Buddhist art at Wheaton College, Wellesley, University of Rhode Island and University of Pittsburgh. She has published four non-fiction books and numerous essays in scholarly anthologies. “Chance Meetings” is her debut story collection.
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