Thanks to Algonquin Books for the review copy of this book!
Another fabulous nonfiction title that I just HAD to make time to share about here! It releases on January 23, 2018.
The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan
(Algonquin Books ~ January 23, 2018)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Shoba Narayan, a writer and cookbook author who had lived for years in Manhattan, moves back to Bangalore with her family, she befriends the milk lady, from whom she buys fresh milk every day. These two women from very different backgrounds bond over not only cows, considered holy in India, but also family, food, and life. After Narayan agrees to buy her milk lady a new cow (she needs one and Narayan can afford it, so why not?), they set off looking for just the right cow. What was at first a simple economic transaction becomes something much more complicated, though never without a hint of slapstick. When Narayan starts dreaming of cows, a little Ayurvedic medicine is in order. (Cow urine tablets, anyone?) When Narayan offers her surprised neighbors fresh cow’s milk, we learn about the place of milk in Indian culture. When Narayan wants a cow to bless her house, the spiritual and historical role that cows play in India is explored.
In this charming true story about two women and the animal they share, readers are treated to an insider’s of view of India. The Milk Lady of Bangalore is also a window into our universal connection to food and its sources, the intricacies of female friendship, and our relationship to all animals.
Some books enter into my life for the simple purpose of making me a more informed world citizen, and I am all for that. However, THE MILK LADY OF BANGALORE 100% did that, but also did the almost impossible and utterly charmed and entertained me at the same time. Narayan has taken a topic that seems to be incredibly simple (the life of the milk lady across the street from her apartment building), and has woven it into not just a rich look at life in modern India, but also a compassionate and loving tale of one family’s life and livelihood, as well as a well-researched and fascinating account of the role of the cow and milk in Indian culture throughout history. And not just that – she wrote all of this in a fast-paced and addictive style, from her unique perspective of being born in India, living in the US for 20 years and then returning to India as an adult with her family.
As a lifelong Wisconsin resident, and a cow-landlord for 6 months out of the year, I thought I knew pretty much what I needed to know about these giant animals. But no. No, I didn’t. Narayan has made me desperately want to travel to India ASAP to see for myself the differences between desi cows and imported hybrids. And taste packet milk versus fresh milk sold on the street. I want to see a cow shelter and I want to donate a cow to a Brahmin. This book is one I will truly never forget, and its gift of the cow urine anecdotes will give me something to bring up in awkwardly silent social gatherings for years and years to come.
If you read one nonfiction book in 2018, make it this one. And then PLEASE be in touch so we can talk about that cow urine. Please?
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