As one might expect of a novel entitled Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, hilarity abounds and sanity is in short supply. Kiran Desai’s novel, with its hint of magical realism, is funny, light-hearted, and a quick and easy read.
To begin with, Desai’s characters are absurdly comical: an eccentric, half-crazed mother, obsessed with undertaking bizarre culinary concoctions; the young Sampath, who, after losing his lackluster job at the post office, takes up residence in a guava tree from where he makes obscure pronouncements; the village locals who duly interpret these pronouncements as profound words of wisdom; a sister who bites off half an ear of the man she loves; a grandmother who drops her dentures in a cooking pot filled with gravy, fishes said dentures out, pops them back into her mouth, and proudly displays a grin with her curried yellow teeth; a father who schemes to capitalize on his son’s newly found fame; monkeys who terrorize villagers and then take up residence in the guava tree while adopting the young hermit as one of their own; devotees who come from miles around to wait patiently at the foot of the tree in the hope of hearing Sampath spout his pronouncements. The more fortunate devotees receive his blessing by placing their heads under Sampath’s dangling feet. And, then, of course, there is the overarching problem of what to do with alcoholic monkeys on the prowl for even more alcohol. Such is the world depicted in Kiran Desai’s charming novel.
Desai is a keen observer of human behavior, seeming to take delight in depicting the quirks and foibles of her characters. Sampath’s pronouncements, for example, “Why think about futter when you have plenty of butter?” Or, the even more inspiring, “Every plum has its own beginning. Every pea its own end,” are greeted with “Ooohs!" and "Aaahs!" from his enthralled audience. Bizarre happenings are rendered in humorous and colorful detail. The plot is absurd, bordering on the fantastic.
Desai’s skill as a writer is evident as she weaves an incredible story, populates it with amusing characters, and captures the atmosphere of a small town in India. She does it all with humor, undeniable gusto, and a prose that borders on poetic.
A very funny, light, and entertaining book. Highly recommended.