Amballore Thoma
by Jose Thekkumthala

"Coffin dodger is Gang’s nickname for Thoma, coined for his unpardonable crime of being alive and keeping at it. They would rather he quit doing that."

After their arranged marriage, Thoma and Ann seem to be living the good life when it all falls to pieces. The couple lose Thoma’s parental home and property to his younger siblings, whom Thoma had been raising. They become homeless and bounce from place to place until they eventually settle in a rental which includes a cruel landlord. Ann does her best to make their little rental a home and provides Thoma with ten children, one of whom is the landlord’s through rape. This child, like the landlord, is a werewolf. Thoma works odd jobs, drinks too much, and sometimes hits Ann. His older children are dutiful and driven to get out and make their own way in life. The younger children don’t think their parents do enough and expect more from them. The family is visited by a variety of spirits and Indian mythological beings, which play important roles in the family narrative.

Thekkumthala has written an interesting book which is both a family saga and a glimpse into the magical world of Indian gods and myths. The writing is crisp, with only occasional grammatical errors, and Thekkumthala often writes quotable phrases through his wordplay. The fantastical elements of the book really bring the narrative to life. This is especially beneficial in a work like this, where the protagonist is not entirely likable or likely to inspire too much empathy. Those familiar with magical realism in works by Isabel Allende or Gustavo Patriau will find a similar offering. The author clearly understands the literary elements he is playing with, and many readers will find this quick read quirky and satisfying.

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