Book Reviews by a Pioneer: The Oracle of Karuthupuzha by Manu Bhattathiri

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Satire/Humour/Social Drama
Rating: 5/5

Karuthupuzha is a fictional town somewhere in South India – the location is immaterial. The town could have been anywhere across the globe – the story would have remained relevant anywhere.

Sarasu, the teenage daughter of Naresha, the local milkman, has a fit one day, when she is unable to get her way with her parents about her studies. The ambitious father sees in this fit the fulfilment of his own ambitions to rise up the class ladder. The daughter is possessed by Chathan, the demon God, and he Naresha, is the only one who can interpret the predictions of the god for the good people, speaking through the garbled sounds of the goddess, his daughter. She is the Oracle to help people.

Nanu, the son of the rich widow, Ponamma, is not quite right, as per the perceptions of his widowed mother and the town people – because his behaviour does not fit with what is expected of a growing up child, an adolescent, and a young adult. He remains immersed in his own dreams, wondering about the meaning of life, and seemingly in love with the naked centrespread of an American woman in an adult magazine.

The inevitable happens – the widow brings her son to the interpreter for Chathan consultations with Goddess Sarasu. The town is in ruptures for the scandalous rumour mongering opportunities that this presents – markets, toddy shop, wedding events – anyplace is fair game.

The book is a commentary on society across the globe – class, caste, fake god men, gullible and the non-gullible common people or even rich people, legends. The author is almost irreverent, yet funny and scathing at the same time, in talking about the practices in society and our gullibility to fall for them. There is a 4–5-page passage around page 200, when Nanu is talking to himself about what goes on in his mind, and his questions about what is life. There is a self effacing humour even in these deep queries. These are questions that most of us have asked in our journey of life at some point or the other.

You chuckle or smile or even laugh as you read, only to realise with a shock that the author may actually have been describing you, or someone that you know. And, you do not take offence – that is the beauty of this novel. It is a mirror where you look at yourself, but for once you like the mirror and your image.

This is a brilliant novel.

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