Nalina Jones' intertwined stories are, first of all, about something interesting: the lives of an extended family in an Indian town where Catholicism is the dominant religion. Secondly, she "connects" stories in beautifully natural, organic ways, rather than simply trying to make a collection collect. Thirdly, her stories trace the ways that small actions and traits of character affect family members, and shape children. Indeed, her treatment of children is superlative: she respects their seriousness even as they make childish mistakes, and they bear serious consequences. I smiled often as I read these stories, because the portraits are tender and quixotic, but I also often caught my breath when I recognized where a story was going.
Writers could learn a lot just by studying Jones' epert use of scenes. She is so skilled at manipulating point of view, psychic distance, and pace, you don't notice how often she is tweaking the "rules" of contemporary fiction (especially the idea that you can't switch POV, which she does beautifully). Above all, these are stories of character, of flawed, loving, intelligent people navigating changes in their society and even movements to the U.S. Readers who like Indian literature will love this book, but so will people who just plain love good stories about sympathetic characters caught up in their own "small" lives.