A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)
by Rohinton Mistry
Paperback- $12.99

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty ...

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  "new frindship between 4 main characters.very sad book,but worth the read." by chrismccoy (see profile) 11/16/07

Very sad and depressing however excellent writing.

 
  "Four strangers come together out of shear need for survival." by kathaileen (see profile) 12/09/07

This book is set in 1975, in an unnamed city by the sea in India. It is in the middle of government upheavals and caste discrimination. Four strangers come together out of shear need for survival. The author tells the story of each of them.
Dina became a widow after three years of a marriage of her choosing, not her controlling brother’s. She wants to remain independent in her own home. Maneck is a young student sent from his village for education. Perverted rebels are terrorizing him in his student hostel. His mother was a classmate of Dina’s, so he becomes her paying border. However, that is not enough to keep the rent-collector away. She decides to sew clothes for an export business in her own home.
Ishvar and his brother were sent as children to apprentice a tailor. Their family was one of the lowest castes, they handled the carcasses of dead animals and tanned leather. It was a step up to become a tailor. After their training, Ishvar remained with the tailor and his brother returned home to their village and started a family. After he stood up for his voting rites, all his family was brutally murdered, except his son Om. Now the two were the only family left.
Dina hires Om and Ishvar. At first she can hardly stand them, and is very strict about employer/employee relations. They live in a cardboard community that gets plowed down, then they sleep in a doorway of a local store until they are rounded up for a work camp. When they return after being rescued from the work camp, Dina is so relieved to see them that she lets them sleep on the veranda. The four become a family.
The book is full of minor characters. Some of the more memorable ones are Dina’s brother Nusswan, Rajaram the hair collector, Beggermaster and Shankar.
We are all so unaware of what goes on in the rest of the world. Although this is fiction, it is based on historical events. It happened when I was in my twenties. Maneck and Om would have been a little younger than I would have been.
Postcript: I went to India in 11/2005. I recalled a lot of this book as I walked around some of the big cities (i.e. the tailor sitting at his treadle machine on the street outside the shop, the beggars in the street).

 
  "superb piece of storytelling" by peteharris2017 (see profile) 04/20/08

In some ways this is a very old fashioned book. It just tells a straightforward story. No surrealism, no magic realism , no obscure metaphor, just a well spun tale. And it is all the better for it.

What this superbly written book is about is India's State of Emergency in the 1970s, imposed by Indira Gandhi. The situation is described through the lives of four individuals, a widow, two tailors and a student. We see how the political situation affects, and tragically affects the lives of these four people.

A Fine Balance is deeply tragic, it had me close to tears on several occassions, it is also very funny and above all it rings shockingly true to life. The descriptions of poverty and of state brutality are harrowing but the ability of ordinary people to find even a little happiness in the dark is genuinely uplifting

The chief joy of the book is the wide range of characters which do indeed bring to mind Dickens, or indeed the obvious comparison, Vikram Seth.

So in summary, uplifting, harrowing, amusing, touching. Very strongly recommended, I might already have found the best book I'll read this year.

 
  "Loved it" by tibby51703 (see profile) 09/14/10

I read it in college. I didn't want to read it because it just looked so long. But once I started it I couldn't put it down. It was amazing. I highly recommend this book to anyone!!

 
  "A well written powerful story" by sandymorehouse (see profile) 11/21/10

I can't say I enjoyed the book, but I had to finish it. It was so well written I feel like I know the characters. I still think about them and the story line, which doesn't happen often with me. The story is very tragic. There isn't anything uplifting in this book. I got to page 500 and thought the book should end there. There was still another 100 pages. After finishing it, I wished I had stopped because the tale continued to spiral downwards all the way to the final page. Though a couple of the characters always had an optimistic outlook to the bitter end.

 
  "Don't miss this book!" by eaichinger (see profile) 01/12/12

This book changed my life. I encouraged every reader in my family to read it and all were deeply affected. You will be hard pressed to take your life for granted after knowing what others have endured.

 
  "A Fine Balance" by Madam Secretary (see profile) 06/18/13

It\\\\\\\'s amazing how much one\\\\\\\'s outlook on life, pessimistic vs. optimistic, sways decisions and outcomes. The book proves that you really need to strike a fine balance in order to carry on no matter what life throws at you. The evolution of the characters drives you to read further; the story is beautifully written.

 
  "A Fine Balance" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/06/16

This was a beautiful story. The interactions and relationships among the four main characters were engrossing and inspiring. If you enjoy historical fiction, this story is for you. I could not put this book down. However, before reading this book, note that the story contains wonderful, warm and loving moments but also has very violent and highly upsetting parts which are very descriptive of what happens to those born and locked into abject poverty in India. I found these parts to be very hard to read and the images and outcomes unfortunately still linger in my mind. So this book is not for the "faint of heart".

 
  "" by becelise (see profile) 01/12/18

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/23/18

Incredible. I loved everything about this book. The author has such a skill for describing people, place and abject poverty. Inspirational yet heartbreaking.

 
  "Kumbaya In America" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/22/18

The problems of prejudice in our country pale when juxtaposed with India's caste system. We're all singing Kumbaya in America by comparison. This book is a shockingly graphic account of humans nearing the pinnacle of inhumanity.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 12/01/19

The main character is Dina. The book is her life story and the story of the people who touched her heart. The book is set in India in 1975. It is eye-opening to see the struggles of this country. I’m thankful to have read it, but it is not always a cheerful easy story. The author does a great job and it is excellently written. I thank him for not sugar coating this story. A must read to understand India and its culture.

 
  "" by puzzled66 (see profile) 02/14/20

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/09/22

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