A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)
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Product Description

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

Customer Reviews:

  • A view of India
    If you want to understand what it is like to live in India, this is a perfect book. An engaging story that you won't want to put down, this book will captivate you and not let go. If you can get the audiotapes, the narrator does an excellent job of making this book absolutely come alive. Through the stories of different people who come together, the reader gets an inside glimpse of India. I recommend this book highly - its a long one, but you won't want it to end!!...more info
  • A Must Read!
    This book is the best book I have ever read! The words are simple yet powerful. The book is realistic and gives us a true insight into the lives of beggars, people in slums, and corrpution rampant in India till date! I honestly believe that A fine balance beats Shantaram hands down! I could not put down the book yet at the same time I did not want the book to end! The author has done sufficient research on the Beautification Project and the Family Planning programme launched by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi... trust me folks every word of it is true.. there is absolutely no exaggeration. A lot of innocent lives were lost during the vasectomy procedures. The incentive the poor people got was a radio..but did anyone receive a radio.. no not one! What was the result of this project... the population of India is now over a billion! ...more info
  • captivating
    This book is educational and provides a broader world view. But it is also about the human condition, about people, life, love and the pursuit of happiness. I would not cut it off at the knees by merely saying it is an informative book about the life of the poor in India. It is a story we can all relate to on some level as part of the human experience. ...more info
  • A fine book!
    One of the best books I've read in a very long time. The characters will stay with you for years....more info
  • More like "A Fine Imbalance"...
    Ah, where to start?! I'll keep it simple. Interesting, albeit slightly haphazard story; very well written, BUT much too bleak... ...more info
  • Devastating and Brilliant: Worth 600+ pages and more
    I have never encountered a book so moving as Mistry's A Fine Balance. Following the story of Ishvar and Om, I found myself so invested in what was happening to them - the injustice of India's government is infuriating, and the ways in which the overcoming of an obstacle only leads to another is simultaneously depressing and motivational, due to the resilience of each character.

    A Fine Balance is not a light read, but once you begin, you will not be able to stop. Mistry maintains a balance between revealing the utter desperation of the homeless and the ways in which each character finds value in life, despite every force working against it.

    I was moved by this book as if I were watching a movie, laughing out loud and crying to myself during the ups and downs of the plot.

    The beauty of the book is in the conclusion, as Mistry does not employ any shallow devices to wrap things up in order to make the reader feel redeemed after the devastation. It is realistic, sad, and fulfilling all at once. I left questioning whether or not I would be able to live my life with the same optimism were I in the same situation.

    This book will force you to view your life through a different lens, and you will be better off for reading it. ...more info
  • A Fine Balance
    This is absolutely the best book I have ever read. It is very well written and has memorable character with whom I became very close to. This book has left quite an impression on me with a new understanding of life in a third world country and how cruel life can be. My only complaint is that it seems as though Rohinton has speed through the ending and lacked the increadable detail that was through out the rest of the story. ...more info
  • Very good
    This was a very good book. It took me a little bit of time to get into the book, as the characters names were a little hard to follow. But once the story got started this book was really good. It was a bit depressing though. ...more info
  • Charles Dickens Meets Emile Zola in India
    I read this with a reading group I recently joined and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You would think to yourself "this character is a total jerk" and then slowly it is revealed why this person acts like this. You find yourself really liking the characters you previously disliked. I wish we could see all people like that....more info
  • A Wicked Imbalance - Endless, unrealistic negativity
    I pen this review to caution potential readers led to this title by the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire. The theme is nearly identical: people, including the poorest of the poor, struggling through life in India. The results, however, are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

    "A Fine Balance" is absolutely, hands down, the most negative, hollow, depressing and unrealistic portrayal of the human experience I have ever read.

    Don't be confused by "Book of the Month" awards and such. This is NOT a book about hope, victory, happiness or even the possibility of these things in life.

    I forced myself to read all 603 pages because I thought the author was preparing a profound lesson on the resilience of the human spirit; that with tenacity we can survive life's worst challenges; that we can confront overwhelming odds and, ultimately, triumph in some small way, retaining our dignity and finding inner peace.

    There are no such lessons here.

    Mistry, an absolutely brilliant writer, portrays gray lives and slowly, agonizingly, rots them black before your eyes. I read on thinking he was preparing me for catharsis, only to discover that I had been cheated out of my time, just like every character in this book.

    Do you believe that life is an intricate web of painful tortures and losses that build, one upon the other, until senseless death takes you at the end? Do you want to read of an endless series of crimes perpetrated upon the innocent and weak where the criminals appear again and again, unscathed, to laugh in their victim's faces and repeat their crimes?

    If so, Mistry won't disappoint you.

    His book beats you to the ground and murders your entire family before your eyes for no reason (literally). His book kills your husband and leaves you to live the rest of your life alone, struggling, in poverty with no happiness, love or security (literally). His book forcibly castrates you just before your wedding day (literally). His book allows your struggling parents to send you to college to seek a better life, then murders you...and then has your three sisters commit suicide for good measure. (literally) Oh. Don't worry. Both your parents live to experience all this.

    Mistry's creative mind gives us countless other tortures.

    If this is the type of experience you are seeking by all means read this book. But expect no mercy, no justice and especially no balance. This is pure negativity and loss. Evil is never punished (with one minor exception that makes no difference). Kindness is never rewarded.

    Here is the book's message: No matter how hard you try, life will arbitrarily destroy everything you hold most dear, frequently right before your eyes. But what about the things you don't see? What about your dreams and hopes for your friends and family? They are also in the process of being mercilessly destroyed...you just don't know it yet.

    At the top of page 588 one character ponders, "It did not always have to end badly--he was going to prove it to himself."

    But with 15 pages left, and most of the carnage behind you, you realize that it already has ended badly. Of course our reliable author manages to add more misery in the closing pages.

    As I closed the book I was left with nothing but the wish that I had spent my time elsewhere. You have that opportunity. Choose wisely.
    ...more info
  • Needlessly depressing
    I am not going to give away the story line, or any details about the plot in this review, except to say that this is a novel centered around the lives of a few people during what is known as "The Emergency", a period of time in India in the late 70s when the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi (daughter of Nehru), decided to impose massive restrictions on society, including the passing of heart-warming laws advocating suppression of free speech, forcible sterilizations etc. Some Indians, especially upper-class Indians, fondly remember it as the period when "trains always ran on time, and you could set your watch to their arrival and departures". Apparently, it wasn't so terrible for everyone, which is why I find it confusing that all the characters in the book are struck by an endless litany of misfortune. It just goes on and on, and when you're about half way into the book, you're not so much enjoying it as much as placing cynical wagers with yourself as to what misfortune is going to befall these people next. It's not a particularly bad book, it's just completely depressing, and there's not much of a point made to any of the misfortune, much like real life. But why should I go from one depressing paradigm (my views on reality), into another much more depressing paradigm(Mistry's views on reality) ? At that point, I stopped reading the book. I had about 30 pages left to finish, which should give you an indication of how much of a page turner this book was. If you want a better book about Indian society or life in general, try The Moor's Last Sigh or The Satanic Verses, both by Salman Rushdie, but if you are hoping to be somewhat entertained, give this book a miss.

    ...more info
  • "A skewed, over-the-top sensationalized unbalance" is more like it.
    I want to start by saying how much I love Mistry's style. I love his love for language. And I would not hesitate to agree he is the 'Dickens' of India (no pun there): a furor of intricately detailed characters, a compelling story and a morose morbidity. Something about that.

    I was born and raised in India. And before everyone jumps in to quip 'so what - I was too' let me add to that - as a woman, and in a backward caste - very close to the Dalits described in AFB. I have never, EVER seen such a depressed and wretched yarn in real life - where nothing, absolutely NOTHING - ever good comes out! (All my formative years were in this pseudo-dalit community) I am almost angry at Rohinton, and if I had not read his other books, I would blame him (maybe I still can who knows) for sensationalizing the hardships of the have-nots in India. I cannot because I perceive a sensitive heart in Mistry that flutters at the slightest human misery. I adore him for that.

    But why do people, especially my Western friends, romanticize such depravity and barrenness in India? I have had my share of pain in life, and struggle and failings and floggings :) - but this is just pure 'YARN' with 600+ pages of nothing to learn from!

    I have worked with dalits in even worse socio-economical conditions than myself as a social worker, and their smiles are genuine, their happiness is infectious, their wants a lot more smaller for any of us here on this forum to grasp and comprehend. I am mesmerized and inspired by them. Even to date when things don't go the way I want in life - I think of how much happiness these people have despite their so-called lack of material riches and it puts life in perspective. If I had only seen lepers and suicidal maniacs and defeatists, I would not have been where I am in life today! And everyone knows of the suicide rates in Seattle :)

    I suggest anyone who does not believe me travel on floors of goods-train compartments, or in third-class ones if you absolutely can't do the other :)

    And a last word about Mumbai - if you have a talent (like the two tailor-masters), there is *no-way*, that you'd end up as lepers. There are oh - about 500+ million women in India, who - no matter how poor will want their saree-blouses to be custom fitted. Enough said.

    Also I want to thank the reviewers who have shown the courage to take on chagrin of committed fans of this book :) And I am ready for someone to shoot me too :)

    [...]!(Mr. Mistry please find an inner sanctuary of happiness and peace) :) Love you as a writer yes, but this book: I am scared to even give away. I'd rather pass on happiness as in Malgudi Days Malgudi Days (Penguin Classics) rather than this huge bundle of misery. Sorry....more info
  • A harrowing tale about India
    Having lived in the city of Mumbai, especially south mumbai which is where most of the novel is actually based in, the settings in the book were painfully familiar. I have had a number of Parsi friends over they years and a lot of the dialogues (especially Nusswan's and Dina's) when translated to Gujarati are exactly how I would imagine a few of my Parsi friends talking. I applaud Mistry in reviving these memories and the minute details about the South Mumbai are stunning (L M Furtado music shop, V T station). However, the familiarity of the setting made it extremely painful to read about the misery of the characters walking in those same streets and eating in some of the places I had been eating. The simple language made the descriptions of the miseries faced by the characters even more unbearable. I read the novel hoping that it would lead to redemption of the characters eventually but knowing in my heart that in reality it would be quite opposite, but I still hoped that the author would betray the truthfulness for a soothing ending. But Mistry remains true to the circumstances till the end, even at the expense of completely destroying the lives of the main characters, Mistry remains true to his goal of showing a very different, at times extremely brutal and horrible face of my country. I applaud the author for that. Thanks for remaining true and not selling out for a more palatable ending at the expense of distorting the reality.
    ...more info
  • The accolades are deserved
    This is one of the 15 best books I've read in my life. The writing is good, as is the character development and depth. It accurately portrays India, from what I've seen in traveling there and talking with people. It's entertaining and educating, not often combined well.
    When I started it, I thought it was going to be like "The Glass Palace", which I read before going to Burma. But it's not a history of generations over great spans of time - it stops at a set of 4 characters after covering some of their predecessors and goes into depth on the lives of those 4.
    Best $11 I've spent in a long time.
    Paul ...more info
  • Depressing: Give me a Break?
    Give me a break, depressing YES, but life is this. Beautiful, the title says it ALL. Wonderful, and REAL book. A breath of fresh air that tells it like it is....more info
  • Murphy's Law
    This book is the epitome of Murphy's Law- what can go wrong, will go wrong. It is so needlessly depressing. I am not one to only read books that are filled with sunshine and rainbows, but like many other reviewers have said, the problems faced by the characters in this book are SO numerous that as I read it, I became jaded. This book exhausted and numbed me and towards the end, the misfortunes of the characters had no affect on me.
    I do feel like the author stereotyped India and Indian citizens to some degree. I feel like non Indians or non South Asians who read this book will walk away with an image of India that is not particularly accurate.
    While his writing style is quite good, it gets a bit claustrophobic. Overall, the depression just makes it unbelievable. I did not enjoy this book at all. ...more info
  • What a great read...
    I have recommended this to friends and all have raved. This is a wonderfully entertaining and well written book. I will never forget the characters. Mistry has written a masterpiece. ...more info
  • I loved it!
    I could not put the book down! It is an easy read with interesting characters. You will appreciate the simple things in life after reading this book. I will read more from this author....more info
  • Absolute favorite I've ever read-----
    I'm visiting Amazon to purchase this book for a group of girlfriends. I read this book years ago and still can't get it out of my mind. I'm still haunted by the characters and yes, as dramatic as this sounds, I feel like I've grown a little as a person since reading this book. You can't help but connect to these characters and feel their hardships. As another reviewer commented you can see, feel, taste and smell India on each page. It is a long book, but please don't be put off by the size. You will devour each and every page with renewed vigor! Enjoy!!...more info
  • A Moving Masterpeice
    A Fine Balance is the second award winning fiction novel from Rohinton Mistry. The majority of the story is set in India in 1975 under the Indian government's infamous state of emergency. The book's main characters are composed of an unlikely group of four people from different economic backgrounds, each with their own tragic stories, customs, and personalities, who are forced to share one small apartment in an Indian city. The small living quarters compel the four characters, Dina Schroff (later Dalal), Iad Maneck, Ishvar Darji, and his nephew Omprakash, to develop a close relationship as they face various problems and navigate the volatile economic and social conditions that plague India. Through Mistry's unique style of writing he exposes the personal story of each person living in the apartment in great detail, enabling the reader to empathize with the characters and gain a deep understanding of the experiences of the characters and how they shaped their personalities. This novel is much more than a poignant story; intertwined with the narrative is Mistry's social and political commentary on the dehumanizing caste system, the corrupt government, and the demoralizing, squalid conditions that afflict India to this day.

    The setting and historical period A Fine Balance takes place during is integral to the story as it has a profound effect on the lives of the four apartment dwellers. The story takes place in a city by the sea in India in 1975 during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's declared state of emergency. Under the state of emergency, democracy is suspended and free speech and civil liberties are restricted. The prime minister is effectively ruling by decree, and has implemented a family planning initiative requiring the forced vasectomy of thousands of men, affecting Ishvar and Omprakash. The city by the sea (as well as many other Indian cities at the time) is stricken with poverty. The crowded streets are littered with homeless people who have taken up residence on the sidewalks. There is no developed sewage system; effluent winds freely through the countless slums of the city. Unfortunately, the government proves itself incapable of correcting the corruption, poverty, and squalid conditions that affect India as a whole.

    I enjoyed this moving book and feel that it broadened my awareness of the poverty, caste system, and corrupt government that has afflicted India for decades. I am especially fond of Mistry's portrayal of the impoverished characters Ishvar and Omprakash. His realistic depiction of the characters enabled me to empathize with them on a level that I have never reached with any other book. I would highly recommend this book to those who take an interest in India in general, human rights, civil liberties, and the caste system.
    ...more info
  • Too Much!
    I know this sounds really bad, and I don't want to sound mean in any way, but this book is actually more enjoyable (to me, anyway) if it is read like it's a Dark Comedy. It's just so ridiculous, yet so sad, and so tragic, yet so utterly unbelieveable toward the end. The effect it had on me was that it just made me feel tired. Worn out. The last hundred or so pages, I was just skimming the lines, trying to get the general idea, trying to make it to the finish line. It made me tired. The characters were a bit shallow, so much so that I had difficulty distinguishing the various misfortunes to them. Povery, despair, overpopulation, exploitation of the poor, it's all there and in spades. The highs were really, really high and the lows were these crashing, devastating lows and they happened at such a pace that it has a burdening effect on the reader. Seriously, it's a good book, but it could be about a hundred or so pages shorter, and toned down a bit! It gets to the point where it's just funny, in a sort of mean way....more info
  • Heart wrenching but important
    This is an incredibly vivid story of the harsh reality of India during Indira Ghandi's "State of Internal Emergency" in the mid 1970s. The author is incredibly talented and draws you in emotionally to understand things like the caste system and the corruption that was so rampant during this time period.

    I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" this book because it was absolutely heartbreaking and bleak. Definitely not a "feel good" book... but important - so I am glad that I read it.

    This book also made me think a lot about issues like overpopulation and poverty. There are no simple answers. Knocking down slum areas to beautify an area may sound good but where are the people supposed to go to? Forced sterilization as a means to control the population was India's answer to a huge problem but it just isn't that black and white. This heart-wrenching story gives one much to ponder....more info
  • One of the most depressing books that I have read
    This is one of the most depressing books that I have read in a long long time. The main characters in this story go though one trouble after another for seemingly no reason. In fact they hardly have anything good going for them. Surprisingly they behave really well for their circumstances.

    People unfamiliar with India may believe that this is the norm, which isn't true. This is a fictious story created by amalgamating the worst conditions possible for different people into the lives of all the characters of this book.

    The story about the beggar master having a step brother is one of the most dramatic fiction created to bring out some more NEGATIVITY....more info
  • "the problems with the sewing, the rent, the rations"
    I will confess that this book began to seriously annoy me after the first two hundred pages or so. I've been reading Mistry out of order-- I read Family Matters first, and loved it. Well, "love" is maybe not the right word. But I was in any case deeply impressed. I was kind of expecting to have the same reaction to this book. I should stress that in the end, I enjoyed it nearly as much. There were, however, some tough moments at the beginning.

    One of the things that I tend to hate most in a work are the way in which authors subtly do discredit to the very poor by focusing on the charming quirks of their lives. It is as though they posit that poverty is a lesser but still stable condition, and look to find little gems of coziness and narrative. The trouble that I have with that is, of course, that the nature of poverty means a lack of stability. Housing is fleeting,families are torn apart, children are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. I was afraid at the beginning that Mistry was going to embark on that kind of journey of romanticization. I should have known better.

    In the end, the world that A Fine Balance portrays is bleak enough that I almost wish that he had injected a little romance. (I know, no pleasing me at all, is there?) Even the characters who thought that they had achieved some middle class stability are thrown into chaos by the times around them. The resting places are merely temporary-- little ledges that the survivors cling to on their way to the pit. The actions that are able to be taken in the face of such corruption and change are necessarily both silent and desperate.

    So. I apologize for all my bad thoughts as I read the novel. Again, I can't quite say that I "love" a book this bleak. But it is quite impressive indeed....more info
  • spectacular read
    this novel takes you to such unexpected places that continue to unfold throughout the story. i havve not read such fine writing in many years....more info
  • Tour de Force
    Rohinton Mistry has written a book that will out last our lives. A FIne Balance is the story of three people in India during the 1970's from three different economic back grounds . They are brought together and then the tragic course of India's history takes hold. This is an extremely well written epic tale that will make you hope, laugh, love, cry, scream and weep. I passed it to a good friend from India and was told the history that frames this story is all true. Left me with an incredible feeling of despair and awe. If Dickens were alive today living in India I believe he would have tried to write this story.
    There are very few books that I hold on to.... this is one is ensconced on my shelves!...more info
  • Entertaining, informative, but tips the balance a bit too far
    After completing this rather long book (601 pages) I found that I was left with a vast range of impressions of the book, which would make perfect sense considering that Rohinton Mistry tries to cover so much ground in his vast novel. I enjoyed the storyline that tells the history of the main characters and how they happen to end up at the same place.

    Mistry's character development was uneven however. The character of Dina Dalal is the most highly developed personality. She is a beautiful widow in her 40s trying to maintain her independence is a society where a single woman would find survival difficult, even if they were Parsi. She is reserved and the tragic death of her young husband is a defining moment for her. Yet she does not go insane with grief, as did her mother when here physician father dies. Maneck Kohlah is developed well, especially in his youth, until the end of the story and Mistry selects to make a point about family and connectedness and thus sacrifices this character to the writer's agenda. I can certainly deal with sad situations in a novel, but when the sadness is constructed so as to convey a philosophical point, and then I grow weary. The two tailors, Ishvar Darji and his nephew Om Darji, are treated as individuals but also as types. They are from the lower castes and thus every possible hardship is heaped upon their heads to convey the immense social injustice and human cruelty present in Indian society during the 1974-75 political emergencies. To some extent the tragedies become so dramatic and so frequent that I kept wondering "what next can happen to these poor guys?'

    A range of secondary colorful characters move the action forward, much like in a Charles Dickens or Jane Austin novel. These characters, some of which are eccentric and odd, however are meant to play a range of 'types' which includes beggars, prisoners, murderers, thugs, criminals, street performers, lawyers, business men, and religious types. They are entertaining to the extreme except for Mistry's tendency to have them voice political ideology. The character of Beggar master is a good example. Too quickly he warms to Dina, Maneck, Om, and Ishvar and tells them his sordid past and the horror of his profession whereby he buys children and mutilates them to become more profitable beggars. He even shows them his sketchbook where he designs beggar strategies and then mutilates other humans to fit the image he wishes to convey to elicit maximum charity and pity. He is a sculptor of pathos using human flesh as his medium.

    Whereas the characters of Dina and Ishvar are relatively well developed, Maneck and Om both have sharp truncated treatment in the final passages of the book. Once Om is mutilated by the village leader who killed his parents and little sisters, he almost disappears from the narrative. We never hear his rage or his response or his reconciliation.

    Thus we are left with the uneasy feeling that even Maneck and Om are types, meant more to make a political or socio-economic or social injustice point than to explore a personality and the response of that personality to the social and political conditions around them. Maneck seems to symbolize the new young Indian, pulled from their historic regional family roots and sent forth to become technicians. Maneck develops a surrogate family with Dina, Ishvar, and Om that serves him well for two years, but the 8 years he then spends in Dubai seem to completely disorient him. He views his parent's desires for him to leave the old life behind and become a technocrat in the new Indian economy as personal rejection. Thus Mistry not only wishes to convey to us the horrors of the Indian poor, the mass corruption in government, the large criminal element that preys on the poor, but Mistry also wants us to sense that the middle class is paying a price for modernization, which is alienation from their own children.

    The narrative is a bit long and could have been shortened by 200 pages with no real loss to the overall novel. Yet the ending of the novel seems truncated and uneven. I was entertained throughout the entire novel but sometimes in a comic dark humor way that I just don't think Mistry intended. When a writer wishes to make a social justice point and makes that point by having gross social injustice heaped upon his main characters, the writer runs the risk of ridicule if the strategy is used too often.
    ...more info
  • HelCris
    Good reading althought, as others reviews state, too much suffering, excessive tragedies, and when you think it is over, Mistry finds something even worse for his characters. It looks like the is NO balance afterwards, not even a "fine" balance. It's all too sad....more info
  • Delectable and Disturbing
    This is not a book for the faint of heart. It relates the interwoven histories of four main characters and several peripheral individulas who impact on their lives. Try to imagine people who are floating together in one huge river in India, a river that is made up of currents of brutality, avarice, corruption and cruelty - all blending and separating and rejoining in a nonending and inescapable life force. The characters never get out. At times they may escape some, or all, of these currents, but only for a short while, and never long enough to be able to stand upright and make a break for the shore.

    In the end, some of the characters are destroyd by their toxic environment; others survive and manage to keep (varying amounts of) their spirits alive; none of them are able to get what they wanted out of life.

    Both the most beautiful and the most terrible thing about reading this book is that Mr. Mistry's writing is so transcendent that the reader is sucked into the characters' river of despair, comes to know and love its inhabitants, and suffers with them. I had to put the book down several times and come back to it after I had time to catch my breath and regain my equilibrium. Perhaps it is worse if, like me, you have visited India and know that Mr. Mistry is not making this up. His characters may be fictional but their experiences are true....more info
  • A Fine Balance, or Life in Melancholy?
    A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

    Nominated for the Booker Prize. On Oprah's Book Club.

    As the Guardian put it, the book is "A masterpiece of illumination and grace. Like all great fiction, it transforms our understanding of life".

    After reading the 600+ pages of the book, one may say that this is an understatement. The essence of the book can be summarized in the words of one of the Yeats-spouting characters: "After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents - a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life".

    However, the story about four strangers, whose lives intersect in a very strange manner, is spell-binding. You can get completely engrossed in their day-to-day struggles, prodded along by a cast of supporting characters, who are as colorful as they are diverse. Even though each of the supporting characters could be spun off into their own story, Mistry brings them in and out of the lives of the main characters with ease, leaving you wondering about what in their lives caused this behavior.

    Mistry gives enough attention to detail - describing the surroundings and the daily struggles so well that one wonders how much research was put into the book. Being a Parsi, Mistry's detailed description of Dina's life is understandable, but his description of the other two main characters is straight out of a Satyajit Ray movie -at times, it becomes hard to separate fact from fiction.

    As Shakespeare says in King Lear, the wheel comes a full circle, in the end.

    The human misery is described well, but maybe Mistry wrote this book in a dark frame of mind - there are brief flashes of kindness and gaiety - but most of the book, including its ending, will make you question your emotions.

    Definitely not a book to be read on a Spring afternoon, surrounded by vibrant flowers and chirping birds - for that gives a new meaning to life...this is a book to be read when you feeling melancholy - and can empathize with the characters, being a part of their daily struggle for things we take for granted.

    So get a glass of good vino, and prepare to dive in the lives of Dina, Ishvar, Maneck and Om - and be ready to shed a tear or two...

    - Raj Bhandari
    A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)...more info