By Rosie Thomas
Overlook Press, $26.95, 468 pages
Rosie Thomas presents an ambitious novel with The Kashmir Shawl. Mair discovers a beautiful Indian shawl that belonged to her grandmother. The shawl’s beauty and a lock of hair, intrigues Mair to find out about its history. Mair, being a free spirit, immediately sets off for the Kashmir Valley, where her grandparents served as missionaries during World War II. Mair meets interesting characters along the way that have distant ties to her grandparents and their friends in the 1940’s. The story weaves details along the way that help Mair piece together the possible truth that only Caroline, now 90, really knows (if she can remember it). The Kashmir Shawl adeptly intertwines historical facts with an engaging story of romance and mystery. Mair realizes how much freedom, as a woman, she really has. Women in her grandmother’s time were bound by protocol to stay in unhappy marriages and put their needs beneath their husbands. At times, the story moves slowly, but this reader was interested enough to keep moving through the account. The lush surroundings, political unrest and trials and tribulations of married reality brought this drama to life.
“Maybe this was what getting older meant: more and more you are aware of everything that happens overlays another memory, sets up more ripples of association, until each event seems as much a resonance of something else as fresh reality.”
Reviewed by Seniye Groff