There is no finer guide through the multilayered intricacies of India's diverse ideologies than Tharoor, a longtime UN diplomat and celebrated author. His latest novel opens with the murder of Priscilla Hart, an American student killed during a riot while in India, who worked with impoverished women on reproductive and population control issues. When her parents travel to India to probe the events preceding her death, they are told of Hindu-Muslim conflicts over the Babri mosque, which is situated on sacred Hindu ground, and of a chaotic religious parade that spiraled into violence. In reality, Priscilla's death is a paradox of love and hatred, and there is more to her demise than anyone will ever reveal. This novel unravels in a spellbinding fashion, asking the question, What is stronger--love or tradition? Tharoor, whose previous works are fascinating explorations of India's social climate, here reaches gingerly through a haze of violence and offers India in his cupped palm like a tiny bird that has not yet spread its wings to find its destiny.
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