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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran

Title: The Hope Factory

Author: Lavanya Sankaran

Publisher: Hachette (2013)

Genre:  Fiction

Date:  2013

Price: Rs.330


Snapshot: This is a story where the two main protagonists Kamala, a house maid hopes to have her son get good education and become a successful man and Anand who wishes to expand his factory to an international scale. Will their hopes build into a factory? Will they live the future they want and work towards?

The Story & The Critics Perspective: Lavanya slowly builds the story by a zoom into Anand's current situation where he meticulously prepares for a Japanese collaborator's visit for a huge contract and expansion. The author draws a picture as completely as possible, describing each character in entirety, sketching the minutest detail of their behaviour that makes the reader understand and predict them later on. Kamala on the other hand is a maid at Anand's house, at the mercy of his ill tempered wife Vidya. Anand, his circle and the description of his life and company was something I found very dull. Also this build up of characters and the first part of the story is very slow. On the other hand Kamala with her problems, limitations and ambitions keeps the readers interest alive.

Anand is sure to get this contract and needs a 10-15 acre land, this is where the story describes the process of buying land in India, its complications and politics involved. Kamala's story here dives into her past which started binding me to the book finally. She was widowed at a young age, lived with his brother for a few days, who himself being poor could not bear her burden and deserts her. She the respectful woman, with her only hope her son travels alone to a city (something a village girl would really dread). She begins by working for a few years at a construction site, living in the slum and eventually despite hardships, accidents and poverty makes her way into being a house maid and living in her own a small room house (which she is proud and happy about). Her only dream is to educate her son. 

We also meet a very interesting character here, cool Kavika, a carefree, modern bird, a single mom and we slowly discover an infatuation that Anand could never get over. Anand's acceptance of his feelings for her, him browsing over each of her facebook updates, glaring at each picture of hers and his thoughts wavering about her add a little flavor to the otherwise boring story of land acquisition. 
Kamala's life at work is not as easy as Anand's wife Vidya is a slave to her temper and could do anything in rage. However Anand is impressed by Kamala's son and wishes to educate him. That offer being an answer to Kamala's prayers of years. However around the same time Vidya's necklace is stolen and Kamala's son is being blamed for it. On the other hand Anand is not able to crack the land deal due to the local goons who wants a big share. What will happen to the hopes, the factory and their future? Read the story to know more.

The Review:

Positives: Its a story that touches upon the issues of politics around the land trade, the not so clean goons behind clean political hero's, the needs and rights of the poor. The author beautifully sketches and describes each character initially so that later on the reader understand them without words. I felt transported into the story from the middle and enjoyed it from that part. It is not a book that will make you think what happens next , but makes you ponder upon the problems and issues highlighted through the lives of these characters. The writing, language and editing are perfect.

The story goes a little slow in the beginning. It is mild and doesn't make the impact I wanted it to, while reading it and expected from Lavanya after her success of The Red Carpet. There are unanswered points too. One : what happens to Anand's feelings of Kavika? (this however is half way answered but after all the stories about his constant thoughts of her, a little description would have been amazing. Also what finally happens to Kamala's son...well unless the author plans to answer it in a sequel this is the part a reader pines for throughout.
But I may be biased and it may be my expectations that were too high.

The Verdict: A good read. 4 stars on 5

About the Author

Lavanya Sankaran's
first collection of stories, THE RED CARPET, was critically acclaimed in the UK and the US and a bestseller in India. She attended Bryn Mawr College and has worked in investment banking in New York and consulting in India. THE HOPE FACTORY is her first novel.