The Konkans, By Tony D'Souza

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The Independent Culture

Konkans are Indian Catholics who live around Goa, with English Christian names and a very different way of life from the majority Hindu population. In this novel the narrator's father, Lawrence, the first-born son of a Konkan family, marries Denise, a white woman visiting India with the Peace Corps. They relocate to Chicago and Lawrence's brothers arrive, looking for work. He feels obliged to look after them but hates the way they bring with them a culture he wants to abandon. Meanwhile Denise's love for him, which was really only ever a love for India, flounders, and his deluded belief that he can be accepted in a white, middle-class world, grows.

There's a lot of appealing character-driven humour here, often tinged with melancholy, as when an uncle slips across the border from Canada and expects to find tigers in the woods. For a novel about a family, some of its human relationships seem over-simplified, but the tensions shaping immigrant life in late 20th-century America are memorably portrayed.