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Book Review

The Goddess in the Living Room

Looking Within (Indian) Women

By Hillary Kang

The_Goddess_in_the_Living_RoomTitle: The Goddess in the Living Room
Author: Latha (K. Kanagalatha)
Publisher: Epigram Books
Price: $18.90 w/GST
No. of pages: 170
Available at Kinokuniya and shop.epigrambooks.sg. 

One does not have to be an Indian, or even a woman, to empathise with the characters in Latha’s vivid collection of stories that deal with a very prevalent issue in today’s society: patriarchy.

Through evoking familiar settings and characters, Latha deftly portrays the struggles of Indian women across all generations, occupations and lifestyles. These stories provide a thought-provoking insight into the inner workings of Singapore’s Indian community that readers are sure to draw parallels from.

For instance, the story entitled “Identity” tells of a middle-aged woman from India who grapples with the desire to be the perfect wife, mother and daughter-in-law while trying to maintain her sense of self.

On the other end of the scale, the story entitled “Room” focuses on a displaced girl who faces stigma and scorn for her choice to be single and independent.

A translated book, the language used in The Goddess in the Living Room is, at times, somewhat sparse. But what the prose lacks in pomp, it makes up for in cutting commentary.

In “Identity”, the central character’s husband ironically says: “I like to see you in a sari, with your long hair dressed in a single plait. Don’t forget that I married a girl from India because I like my wife to be conservative and feminine.”

Readers unfamiliar with Hinduism might feel lost in stories like Battlefield and Kavadi, which touch on the concept of patriarchy in religious contexts.

Nevertheless, Latha’s message remains clear: Inside the heart of every woman, resides an inner goddess whose touch conceives beauty in her endeavours, regardless of the traditional or liberal label. For that, The Goddess in the Living Room deserves a read into issues still relevant in today’s society.

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