Book Review: Nectar in a Sieve

Title: Nectar in a Sieve

Author: Kamala Markandaya
Genre: Semi-autobiographical
Rating: 4 out of 5

Nectar in a Sieve is a poignant tale of a woman’s life, set in a time when urbanization sprung to life amidst a resistant but hopeful rural India. The story revolves around the life of Rukmani, the youngest daughter of a village headman, who was married at the age of twelve to a tenant farmer, Nathan, whom she has never met until their wedding day.

Child bride—this was what caught my attention when I read the synopsis of the book. With the recent news about the eight-year-old who died on her wedding night in Yemen, the concurrent issue of child marriage has resurfaced with higher intensity than ever before. I expected more gruesome details about child marriage in Nectar, but as I read along, I discovered that it tells much more than that—much more harrowing, more touching, than being married at a very young age. 

Nectar tells about a young mother’s struggle in an impoverished area in India. It tells about how Mother Nature is indifferent to the livelihood of people that are dependent on weather. It tells about the destructive effects of infertility in marriage. Markandaya has woven a wonderful, graphical picture of poverty, of the menacing promises of modernization, of the dark pleasures of prostitution, and of the heart-breaking eventuality of children growing up and leaving their parents. 

A slight warning, though: Nectar can be, at first, depressing. Of all the hardships that Rukmani and her family has gone through, it may be hard to believe that someone can have so many misfortunes in life—but it’s real. There is no other book that can pull your heartstrings without having to use the mushy theme of romance. It can leave you both aching and hoping, crying and gushing, with a satisfaction that you have read something worthwhile.

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This review is also published in SunStar Cebu, thanks to Fiona Escandor. You can view the online version of the article here.

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