Twenty-seven year old Priya returns to her native India for a visit during the season that mango fruit ripens, a treasured memory from her childhood. It is then that Brahmin caste women churn into frenetic activity. Mango fruit must be pickled, a chore involving women, gossip, intense physical labor, and talk of marriage. For Priya and her brother, Nate, sucking on a mango stone recalls a feeling they term HAPPINESS. The succulent flavor evokes abject pleasure.
Priya, now a resident of Silicon Valley, carries with her to India the knowledge that she has fallen in love with an American. Steeped in old family tradition, her parents and grandparents put pressure on their unmarried daughter to wed, saving them from bitter embarrassment. Arranged marriages are the norm --- with a suitable mate from one's own caste. Priya's dilemma becomes personal torment when she cannot tell her family that she is engaged to an American.
THE MANGO SEASON is a panorama of Indian tradition. Malladi artfully places Priya in a situation between two opposite worlds. She reverts to childhood when faced with the knowledge that she will break her grandfather's heart with the betrayal of loving a foreigner. Unable to shake the strong yoke of her domineering mother's demands upon her, she gives in to the idea that she will meet a young Indian man who desires a wife. The young woman must ultimately decide between dogmatic tradition and heartfelt emotion.
Malladi uses the mango as a symbol of the disparity between two traditions. She intersperses recipes throughout her chapters for delicacies like Avakai (South Indian Mango Pickle), Mango Pappu (lentils), Rava ladoo and Aloo Bajji. Sanskrit ceremonial words of enlightenment are quoted to emphasize religious traditions that guide the family, and numerous Indian words are used in italics. An occasional peek backwards is necessary to refresh the reader's memory about terms quoted.
THE MANGO SEASON is a dramatic portrait of a modern woman's anguish over her inability to blend her two worlds. The story is told with beautiful word pictures. Malladi's imagery makes one thirst for a juicy topping of HAPPINESS to end the story, a rich ripe mango. For insight into the Hindu world, THE MANGO SEASON is highly recommended. How one's place in a caste society dictates his or her entire future is depicted well in this dramatic narrative.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011
The Mango Season