Narpat, 55, and Dulari live with their three girls and one son, Jeeves, in the village of Lengua in Trinidad in Rabindranath Maharaj's A Perfect Pledge. Narpat, an East Indian in constant conflict with his world, is a cane farmer with high ideals and great ambitions. He runs for village council, wins, and helps the local farmers win full title to their land. His endlessly prickly personality, however, keeps everyone at bay. Next, he plans to build his own cane factory so the farmers can obtain a just price for their crops. This is also the story of Jeeves, the youngest child, who loves his father despite his failings, and we learn how deeply the old man has affected the character of the boy. And this is the story of rural Trinidad itself, a rich tropical world of red mangoes, bats, insects, pineapple, coconut jelly, cucumber stems, and eccentric characters. The city and the government always lurk in the background ready to control Narpat's life. Narpat's struggle often takes the form of stringent dietary restrictions (no sugar, no oils, no fats) and resistance to most of the trappings of the modern world, such as television and movies. Narpat, whose motto is "Even if I have to die in this field, no one will take it from me," is a fully realized character, at times likable, but more often maddeningly self-righteous. The three daughters, however, are almost indistinguishable from each other. But altogether, this abundant novel, with its Trinidadian English dialogue ("What sort of work your father does do, boy?"), proves to be a rich feast of place and language. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Narpat is his Trinidadian village's scolding iconoclast and most vocal critic—a sort of King Lear of the sugarcane fields. He scorns his neighbors for their rum drinking, laziness, bad diet and use of electricity. Year upon year, his overworked wife, three daughters and one son, Jeeves, form a captive audience in this bittersweet and affectionate portrait spanning two decades. Age 55 by the time Jeeves is born in 1961 (a year before Trinidad's independence), within a few years Narpat runs for county councilor on a "futurist" platform and a promise to settle his fellow farmers' dispute with the local landowner. Meanwhile, Jeeves attends school, where variously incompetent and abusive teachers drone in stark contrast to Narpat and his practical autodidact's wisdom. As Jeeves watches his father's influence radiate beyond the family's ramshackle house, he has to decide how he will orient himself to his father's life and leanings. Born in Trinidad, Maharaj has published two previous novels in Canada, where he lives; this is his U.S. debut. Comparison to V.S. Naipaul's Indian-Trinidadian oedipal fiction will be inevitable, and Maharaj lacks Naipaul's acidic bite—probably intentionally. But he does have Naipaul's sense of grand scale in a small place, one that comes through on every page.
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