This is a Review: The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

November 13, 2014

Source: Simona Rich
Before picking up The God of Small Things this past week, the only thing I knew about it was how many of my high school peers absolutely hated reading it for English class. As an avid lover of Toni Morrison (Beloved, in particular), I'm no stranger to being the minority opinion when it comes to assigned reading. Still, I must have carried at least a little of my fellow students' disdain for this book, as I never made the time to read it. A couple of my friends told me it might be up my alley, so I decided to give it a shot. Plus, they lent me their copy—how can I say no when it's right in front of me?!

After devouring it in two days, I absolutely see why this would have been uncomfortable book to read and discuss for 14-to-18-year-olds. Without giving anything away, I can say it's full of gut-wrenching, taboo, and generally gross things. Things that teens might not want to talk about with each other, let alone their teachers (ewww!).

But as someone who's post-high-school, post-college, and not required to talk about or write a paper on this novel, The God of Small Things is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and important books I've read. And I've read a fair number of those this year! (See: Possessing the Secret of Joy, The Ways of White Folks, Things Fall Apart)

Not even getting to the plot or characters, Roy's writing style is gorgeous. She makes the ordinary seem extraordinary, even the "small things" like the sights and smells of a pickle factory, the look and feel of an unfortunate dress worn to the airport, or the way a ceiling fan redistributes the "terror" in the air at a doctor's office. The truly amazing part is that much of what she writes about is anything but gorgeous—there's a lot of spitting, vomiting and other bodily functions in this book, written about with the same tender care as the pretty cousin Sophie Mol or the flora and fauna of India. It just feels so honest in a way that many novels strive toward but don't quite reach. 

I could wax on about the structure of the storytelling, the characters themselves, and the big questions that this book grapples with, but it's all been done before and really, you should just go read this book. That is, unless your high school English teacher already made you do so. In that case, read it again!

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