In an effort to expand my reading horizons, I decided to go through my Goodreads TBR and check out books listed there. Since I was looking for audiobooks, if the book I had listed wasn’t available, but another book by the author was, then I checked out that book. My plan, then, was to read Mistress of Spices, so that’s how I came across The Conch Bearer.
I had no idea this was a middle grade fantasy book when I started the novel (not that it matters–I love middle grade), so I thought the book was going to deal with magical realism, not be straight up fantasy. However, I found that I liked the fantasy elements, especially since Anand’s experience with the conch seems to really be about someone who receives a spiritual calling. This book is not about religion, but when Anand communicates with the conch, it responds to him in a “still, small voice” and, often, refuses to help him until all human methods have been exhausted. Human methods which include, of course, asking other people for help.
I only have two complaints really: (1) the voices of the people Anand and Nisha encounter along the way aren’t that well differentiated. However, considering that we spend most of our time with the three main characters, it’s not that big of a deal. (2) I don’t know how I feel about the ending.
Again, spiritual calling/higher calling, but I found it odd that [spoiler] the only way Anand could join the brotherhood was to erase his existence from his family’s memory. I feel like letting his family know that he was alive and well but that he was choosing to join the brotherhood, which I would call a kind of monastery, would make more sense. Also, whenever it gets to memory modification, I have lots of question. Okay, so his family won’t remember him, but what about the other people in his extended family? The neighborhood? That’s just a lot. Plus also, THIS is when an orphan narrative would make more sense. His poor mother. [/spoiler]
Other than that, though, I loved that this story was set in India and offered a different take on the chosen one narrative. It’s solid.