I recently finished reading Vinod Busjeet’s novel, Silent Winds, Dry Seas. I found it while scrolling through the electronic library on my iPad and decided to borrow it because it fit a few key criteria. For one thing, it was available for immediate download. Second, the cover design and the descriptive paragraph caught my attention: “One of NPR’S Best Books of the Year: A sweeping debut novel that explores the intimate struggle for independence and success of a young descendant of Indian indentured laborers in Mauritius, a small multiracial island in the Indian Ocean.” And finally (and perhaps most substantially), it was a book written by someone who is different from me.
At the beginning of this year, I set a goal for myself: to read 5-10 books written by authors whose worldviews are significantly different from my own. Perhaps a different gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, etc. And I was excited to make this my first such reading adventure because Busjeet’s ancestors hail from northern India, he holds a Mauritian passport, and he seems to approach the world from a secularized Hindu perspective.
One of my favorite things about this book was its setting. I really did learn a lot about Mauritius through this story! The ethnic and colonial history of the island nation make for an unusual blend of cultures from three different continents. And Busjeet describes the cities and countryside in alluring (but not overwrought) ways. Reading this book made me want to visit Mauritius. I wanted to eat its foods. I wanted to meet its people. And, of course, I wanted to soak up its sunshine and seascapes.
The plot of the book centers around a coming of age story about a boy named Vishnu. He’s a sympathetic character. He ends up going a lot of places: from Mauritius to Madagascar to England to America. But the most challenging part of this book for me is that the story didn’t really seem to go anywhere. The narrative often felt meandering and aimless. There are certainly ways in which Vishnu grows and changes, but it feels haphazard. Maybe that’s just the way that Mauritians tell stories. I just found myself wishing for a stronger guy-line to pull me through the narrative.
I’m still glad that I read the book. I can absolutely respect the talent of the author — and I definitely appreciated his Mauritian perspective. But let’s just say that I’m also excited to get another perspective from a different author, from a different background, with a different book, now that I’m done with Silent Winds, Dry Seas.