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Shiva Dancing: A Novel




Meena Kumari is seven years old and about to marry her best friend, Vishnu Rathan, according to the ancient custom of child marriage when she is abducted from her village in the northwest of India. Although she manages to escape the kidnappers, she does not return to the world she knows. Now, on the eve of her thirty-fifth birthday, Meena has begun to question her fast-track life as a systems manager in San Francisco, the city she had called home for the last twenty-eight years. Her adoptive mother has died, and feeling lonely and homesick, Meena resolves to return to her roots and reclaim her cultural heritage. It is a quest complicated by her relationship with San Francisco novelist Antoine Peterson and by the path she has chosen – one that will lead her to her lost love. Though Meena returns to India and manages to reunite with Vishnu, she discovers her true identity there. What choices will Meena make? Will she return to the United States?




Seven, her people always believed, was an auspicious number. One’s life began anew every seven years. So it seemed quite natural to Meena Kumari that she was to wed Vishnu Rathan on her seventh birthday, the night of the full moon. Named after the Hindu god of nurturing, Vishnu was also seven. They had grown up together in Karamgar, a small village of less than a hundred mud houses scattered along winding dirt paths at the edge of the great Thar desert of Rajasthan. They had been friends and playmates ever since she could remember, spending hours playing hide-and-seek in the low-lying rocky hills, smelling the marigolds and chasing the wild peacocks that foraged for food in the village streets.



“Fresh literary terrain . . . Shiva Dancing is part travel guide, part sociopolitical study of contemporary India and even part cookbook.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Bharti Kirchner brings the stories of her homeland’s women to America’s best-seller lists.” (The Seattle Times)

“Her descriptions of foods, beverages, and other domestic customs are richly suggestive, adding color and flavor to an already evocative novel.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Kirchner is a smooth writer using stunning moves in the text. She creates her characters in such a fine manner that we are able to visualize them and understand the motivation. . . The book is totally engrossing and moving.” (KLCC Radio, Eugene, OR)