Priya Rao, 27, works as a programmer in Silicon Valley. She has been dating Nick, an American accountant, for the past three years. She lives with him and they plan to get married soon. The only trouble is that Priya’s Indian family is not aware of Nick’s existence. When Priya left India seven years ago, it was to make a better life for herself. This included a good job, but certainly not an American husband. For Priya’s traditionalist family, it is important that Priya meets a nice Telugu Brahmin, that is to say, a man not only from India, but also from the same caste than Priya’s family and also from the same part of the country…

Priya has postponed for seven years a visit to her family, fearing to have to face some Pelli-chupulu (organized encounter between a young man and a young woman in the presence of their parents and in view of a marriage), and more broadly, the pressure her parents put on her to marry a “suitable boy”. In view of her imminent wedding however, she has no choice but to face her family and inform them of her decision to marry Nick. Priya knows that the news will have the effect of a bomb, and is torn between her love for her fiancé, and her loyalty and obedience to her family, which is part of the culture she was born and raised into.

During the few days she spends in her hometown, Priya and her family gather around mangoes which they make into various local dishes like for instance mango pickles. The atmosphere is already heavy with tensions and rivalry, as Anand, the eldest son of Priya’s grand-parents, has secretly married a Brahmin girl (but not Telugu), who is now pregnant with a son that is not recognized by the family as a rightful heir. Priya procrastinates, but she knows that the truth will have to come out sooner or later…

The Mango Season explores the subject of the gap between cultures and between generations. Through three generations of Indian people, all with different backgrounds and experiences, Amulya Malladi shows how India slowly moves into modernity, and the tensions and problems this shift raises between generations. We are made to sympathize with the main character’s dilemma. She loves her family but she has to distance herself emotionally (and even to question such notions as respect for the elders), in order to affirm who she became by distancing herself physically, through her American experience. Even if taking such a stand is not easy, Priya comes to realize that her act of courage opens the way to other members of her family to affirm themselves too, and set themselves a little freer from patriarchal authority…

The Mango Season is a fascinating read for anybody interested in Indian culture from the point of view of an emancipated woman (the author herself is married to a foreigner…)

Rating: 4/5