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Cover of The Heart Is a Shifting Sea: Love and Marriage in Mumbai
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The Heart Is a Shifting Sea: Love and Marriage in Mumbai

By: Elizabeth Flock

Publisher: HarperCollins Trade

Imprint: Harper

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780062456489

Other Formats:

Electronic | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 384

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  • Reviews
"Elizabeth Flock takes us on an intimate cruise on the shifting sea of the heart, in the best book set in Bombay that I've read in years. Flock's total access to her characters, and her highly sympathetic and nonjudgmental gaze, prove that love and literature know no borders. Easily the most intimate account of India that I've read, and of value to anybody that believes in love and marriage."--Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City"This remarkable debut is so deeply reported, elegantly written, and profoundly transporting that it reads like a novel you can't put down. It's both a nuanced and intimate evocation of Indian culture, and a provocative and exciting meditation on marriage itself."--Katie Roiphe, author of The Violet HourIn the vein of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, an intimate, deeply reported and revelatory examination of love, marriage, and the state of modern India--as witnessed through the lives of three very different couples in today's Mumbai.In twenty-first-century India, tradition is colliding with Western culture, a clash that touches the lives of everyday Indians from the wealthiest to the poorest. While ethnicity, class, and religion are influencing the nation's development, so too are pop culture and technology--an uneasy fusion whose impact is most evident in the institution of marriage.The Heart Is a Shifting Sea introduces three couples whose relationships illuminate these sweeping cultural shifts in dramatic ways: Veer and Maya, a forward-thinking professional couple whose union is tested by Maya's desire for independence; Shahzad and Sabeena, whose desperation for a child becomes entwined with the changing face of Islam; and Ashok and Parvati, whose arranged marriage, made possible by an online matchmaker, blossoms into true love. Though these three middle-class couples are at different stages in their lives and come from diverse religious backgrounds, their stories build on one another to present a layered, nuanced, and fascinating mosaic of the universal challenges, possibilities, and promise of matrimony in its present state.Elizabeth Flock has observed the evolving state of India from inside Mumbai, its largest metropolis. She spent close to a decade getting to know these couples--listening to their stories and living in their homes, where she was privy to countless moments of marital joy, inevitable frustration, dramatic upheaval, and whispered confessions and secrets. The result is a phenomenal feat of reportage that is both an enthralling portrait of a nation in the midst of transition and an unforgettable look at the universal mysteries of love and marriage that connect us all.
In “The Heart Is a Shifting Sea,” Flock seeks to understand the evolution of Indian marriages.... What unfolds is a book that truly is impossible to put down.... A book that would have merited wide readership as a narrative of three marriages struggles to capture the nuances of a country in transition. Flock strives to meet the challenge by layering in historical detail. But facts sometimes get the better of her.
—Washington Post
This intimate portrait illuminates how the marriages fluctuate between stability and dissolution. Infidelity, infertility, isolation and illness threaten the very foundations of these unions, and unfulfilled goals and dashed dreams exacerbate the tensions. The couples struggle, at times mightily, to honor their vows. Their honesty and authenticity speak volumes about how much they trusted Flock with their stories. Among the book's many strengths, Flock abstains from generalizing about India or Indian marriages. Instead, she nimbly captures the interiority of her subjects.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
In the mode of Katherine Boo and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Flock absents herself from the narrative, allowing us to enter the lives of her subjects and witness moments of almost unbearable intimacy.... A small armada of books have explored the aspirations of India's booming middle class, including the excellent “The Beautiful and the Damned” by Siddhartha Deb and “The End of Karma” by Somini Sengupta, a reporter at The Times. What distinguishes Flock's take is her interest in and access to the inner lives of married women who face particular constraints...
—New York Times
Like Katharine Boo — who synthesized hours of research into a cinematic account of slum life in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” — Flock writes about her subjects with omniscient authority. But unlike Boo, who was working across formidable economic and linguistic barriers, Flock has embedded herself among educated, English-speaking, middle-class Indians. Flock's subjects read novels by Chimamanda Adichie and Jeffrey Eugenides, and watch “Friends” reruns.... Flock strives mightily to avoid cliché, with mixed success.... Still, on balance, Flock is a careful, diplomatic interpreter of modern Indian life. Distilling large swaths of culture and history into brief, well-deployed asides, she keeps her focus on the couples themselves. It's a good strategy. What's extraordinary about “The Heart Is a Shifting Sea” is the apparent ease with which Flock has unlocked these marriages.... “The Heart Is a Shifting Sea” is a sober portrait of middle-class yearning — an earnest inquiry into what it is one might reasonably dream of finding in marriage.
—New York Times
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