Title: Small Days and Nights
Author: Tishani Doshi
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publisher’s Blurb: A captivating and clear-eyed story of two sisters caught in a moment of transformation, set against the vivid backdrop of modern India.
The protagonist, Grace Marisola, gets dropped into unforeseen circumstances. Understandably, it’s hard to know what to do when recalled from the US to oversee the cremation of her mother, and finding out the family secret is an older sister with Down’s Syndrome who has been institutionalized Grace’s entire life.
But even under those circumstances, plans arise and actions take place. The book suffers from not knowing what it wants because Grace doesn’t know what she wants. Is it divorcing the husband she left behind in the US? Remaking family connections? Taking care of her sister for the rest of her life?
Things happen to Grace, she doesn’t happen to them. There’s no core to her. Small Days and Nights suffers from a sort of malaise. There’s nothing wrong with the book, exactly. Neither is there something right.
I often overthink my reviews as I try to pin down what I want to write about. Lots of books offer plenty of opportunities to dig in and do the analysis I love. Doshi’s book wasn’t one of them.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t write about how her language often captivated me. For instance, “Mornings at the beach can arrive like a whore, in a jangly too tight dress at the end of a long and sleepless night.” Or, “The heat of summer is behind us but the days still feel bedraggled and worn.“
The beauty in that language and those images make promises the book doesn’t live up to.