Book Thoughts: Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve was a 1954 novel by Kamala Markandaya. I had to read this book for an Asian History class. This is one of the better books I’ve had to read for school. The book was about this poor Indian family that worked on a farm and the struggles they dealt with. In the first half of the book, life was hard, but their needs were met. They were content. In the second half, one disaster after another pretty much ruined their lives. They went from monsoon to drought to their children being unsuccessful to losing their farm and finally to begging.

The story was pretty slow-moving, but I really liked the main characters. They were good people. They had their priorities straight. They didn’t care about having lots of money or power, only that they had enough food and water for their family and to help their children. They always worked hard no matter what, never complained about their lot in life, and always found a way to survive. It had to be hard living the way they did, but they had good morals. They would have gone to heaven because God doesn’t care about money or power. He cares that people did good work in their lives. That’s taking care of their family, helping out friends in need, and treating strangers nicely. They did all these things.

Fortunately, this book was fiction. Whenever it was sad, I was glad it wasn’t real. Unfortunately, there have to be many people in the real world struggling like this. The specific story in this book may not have been real, but there are many elements of it that are true in poor lives around the world, especially in the poor countries. It helped me to appreciate what I have. I rarely have to worry about food, water, and shelter, the basic necessities. My worries are usually about if I am doing enough to make it to heaven. Millions of people are too busy surviving to think about these high level things. It makes it easier for me to forgive people’s sins. Some of them might have a good reason for committing their sins despite them still being wrong.

Lastly, Kamala Markanday, the author, did amazing writing in this book. It was nearly perfect in describing every scene and emotion. There were occasionally times where her symbolism was lost on me, but almost always she used symbols that anyone could understand. Rather than having to spell out all the details she many times could describe it just with these symbols. I found this book to be a very easy read. I was finished in just a few hours. That’s always the sign of a good book. This is one of the few books I’m glad a teacher assigned. So many of the books teachers like are purely academic with little entertainment to be found. This book was the opposite. The story wasn’t perfect, but it succeeded at showing what poor life is like in India and also the role of women there.


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