A bird’s eye view of the fictional Shalom India Housing complex ultimately reveals the fabric of its tenants’ hearts and lives in this anthology of short stories about a group of fictional Jews living in Ahmedabad, India.
The neighbors, who include a vivacious widow, a cantankerous expatriate, and a handful of rebellious adolescents, belong to the Bene Israel tribe — the author herself is a member — that arrived on India’s Konkan coast 2,000 years ago. Their descendants lived in relative isolation, gradually moving inland, until the 2002 riots in Ahmedabad compelled David’s cast to seek communal housing for protection.
The tales are amusing, such as the cross-dressing teenager and the young girl who pines for him, but ultimately bittersweet as characters confront inter-faith marriage, love, and death. David captures the perspective of the Jewish female — at different stages of life and love — especially well.
Prophet Elijah, the book’s invisible but omniscient narrator, spins a web connecting the neighbors and their struggles, with seamless transitions between chapters. The bond uniting the residents of the Shalom India Housing Society — sometimes intentional, sometimes not — underscores David’s belief in the power of community. Her stories of levity and gravity are equally compelling; the result is as rich and vibrant as the curries the Bene Israel Jews eat and the saris they wear.