One of our recommended books is Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

BURNT SUGAR

A Novel


Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, a searing literary debut novel set in India about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal.

“I would be lying if I say my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,” says Antara, Tara’s now-adult daughter.

In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her marriage to join an ashram, and while Tara is busy as a partner to the ashram’s spiritual leader, Baba, little Antara is cared for by an older devotee, Kali Mata, an American who came to the ashram after a devastating loss. Tara also embarks on a stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents) and spends years chasing a disheveled,

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Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, a searing literary debut novel set in India about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal.

“I would be lying if I say my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,” says Antara, Tara’s now-adult daughter.

In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her marriage to join an ashram, and while Tara is busy as a partner to the ashram’s spiritual leader, Baba, little Antara is cared for by an older devotee, Kali Mata, an American who came to the ashram after a devastating loss. Tara also embarks on a stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents) and spends years chasing a disheveled, homeless artist, all with young Antara in tow. But now Tara is forgetting things, and Antara is an adult––an artist and married––and must search for a way to make peace with a past that haunts her as she confronts the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.

Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds mother and daughter. Is Tara’s memory loss real? Are Antara’s memories fair? In vivid and visceral prose, Tibor Jones South Asia Prize–winning writer Avni Doshi tells a story, at once shocking and empathetic, about love and betrayal between a mother and a daughter. A journey into shifting memories, altering identities, and the subjective nature of truth, Burnt Sugar is a stunning and unforgettable debut.

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  • The Overlook Press
  • Hardcover
  • January 2021
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781419752926

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$26.00

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About Avni Doshi

Avni Doshi is the author of Burnt SugarAvni Doshi was born in New Jersey. She received her BA in art history from Barnard College and her MA in history of art at University College, London. While working as an art writer and curator in India, Doshi began writing fiction. She has been awarded the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize and a Charles Pick Fellowship. Her debut novel, Burnt Sugar, was shortlisted for the prestigious TATA Literature Award upon its publication in India and has now been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Avni Doshi currently lives in Dubai with her family.

Praise

“A work of extraordinary insight, courage, and sophistication.” The Washington Post

“Both dangerous and beautiful. I loved it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“Utterly compelling, complex, unflinching realism, written with poignancy and memorability” —The Booker Prize Judges 2020

Burnt Sugar is an unsettling, sinewy debut, startling in its venom and disarming in its humor from the very first sentence.” ― Guardian

Discussion Questions

1. In what ways does Tara go against societal expectations of her as a daughter and wife?

2. Discuss Tara and Antara’s differing memories from their time at the ashram.

• Tara’s recollection of Antara’s response to her father: “You used to cry for him day and night, not eat, not drink. Papa, Papa, Papa. He was the only one you wanted… . You made me feel like shit.”

• Antara’s recollection of living in the ashram, longing for her mother, despite having Kali Mata as a surrogate, when Tara responds to the news that Antara had not been eating: “She throws me down on the bed, and my head feels the hard wood beneath the mattress. I cry out but Ma has climbed on top of me, is holding me, my arms and legs incapacitated, and the flailing I feel, the pain stops short and tolls back inside, turning over on itself. Her hand hits the side of my face, and like lightening, I see the streak before I hear the sound…. You better eat when you are told.”

3. How does Antara’s childhood longing for her mother manifest itself when she is an adult?

4. The primary relationship in Burnt Sugar is that between Antara and Tara, but there are other parent-offspring relationships portrayed throughout the story. Discuss how they are different or the same.

5. What holds Dilip and Antara’s marriage together?

6. How is the institution of marriage presented?

7. Why does Tara have such hatred of Antara’s art?

8. How aware is Tara that she has early-stage Alzheimer’s?

9. “Ma doesn’t come to the house often. She says the main hall disturbs her, especially the mirrors that cover each wall, reflecting everything in multiple directions.” There are other descriptions of the mirrors in Dilip and Antara’s home. Discuss their possible meanings.

10. What is Antara looking for in her relationship with Reza?

11. After the birth of her daughter, Anikka, Antara reflects on her relationship with her mother: “Maybe we would have been better off if I had never been diagnosed as her undoing. How do I stop from making the same mistake? How do I protect this little girl from the same burden? Maybe that’s impossible? Maybe this is all wishful thinking.” How is Antara different from her mother?

12. Considering Antara’s relationship with Purvi and the sexual tension that is part of it, what can be made of Antara’s statement, “Suddenly, I don’t like having Purvi here, don’t want her in the house. She reminds me of too many things we have done together. I don’t want her around my daughter.”

13. Are there universal themes in Burnt Sugar about mother-daughter relationships? If so, what are they?

14. Actual burnt sugar is used in cooking to flavor various dishes, some savory and some sweet. What message about the story is relayed through the title?

15. How is Pune, India, portrayed?

16. How is the United States portrayed?