About this book
Hema Macherla was born in India and now lives in London. She has published twenty-five short stories and many articles in Indian magazines. Her debut novel, Breeze from the River Manjeera, was published to wide acclaim. It was short-listed for Richard & Judy, won the Big Red Read, 2009, and was translated into French in 2012. Hema received a National Reading Hero award in 2008. Her second novel, Blue Eyes, set in India in the 1920s is both epic and intimate as child-bride Anjali escapes the funeral pyre and makes a bid for freedom with the support of her childhood friend, Saleem.
Sometimes it is worth stepping back into the not so distant past to ask if and how we have moved on. Set in the 70s in a small village in India, Letters in the Sand boldly addresses important societal problems about female education and emancipation.
This is the story of a young girl called Kiri and her extremely orthodox family, so orthodox that they believe girls should not be educated, while the education of their boys is of paramount importance. Kiri’s wealthy, tyrannical father, his mother and sister believe that Kiri’s worth lies in being married by the age of fifteen. Her mother is the saving grace in the young Kiri’s life by leading her into the world of letters yet this world must be kept a secret because her mother is powerless within the dominating family.
Hema Macherla deftly creates a rural setting, rigid in its belief system and traditions, and cruel not only to its women, but also to men who want to bring about change. The Indira Gandhi government, the national emergency, the drive of forced contraception to curb India’s population, the rise of the Naxalite movement and female infanticide are all seen through Kiri’s innocent and searching eyes. And it is impossible not to be caught up very quickly in her world where she is reminded always that being born a girl is not a blessing.
There is hope in the attitudes of the younger people – Kiri’s brothers, cousins, a young teacher – and like Kiri, we cling to the possibility that the darkness may end and a new dawn will be born.
Letters in the Sand doesn’t hesitate in holding a mirror to some shocking traditions in India. The seventies were not that long ago, and at the end of the book, I could not help but ask if all of this was in the past or whether it still happens today? In some communities? In some villages? Even if it is 2021?
Evocative, fast-paced with relatable characters, Letters in the Sand is a story that both touches us and makes us think. It’s a bold page turner that carries a social message and a call for change. – Mona Dash, author of A Roll of the Dice and Let Us Look Elsewhere
As I was reading, anger was mounting against Shankar, and his mother Kamala, but in the end Sujata came across as a strong person in her own gentle way. Kiri and Arush are the future of the Human Rights Group. Well done Hema I look forward to your fourth book.-Govindasamy
This book pins the reader down from the beginning to the end and beyond. It depicts the growing determination, like a flame, in a young girl growing up into a young woman processing the norm of the society in which she was born and resisting all the injustices and inhuman cruelties…Weaving political and social issues into personal and family life and taking the readers in a parallel path is Hema Macherla’s unique talent as she has proven in her award winning previous novels Breeze From River Manjeera and her epic Blue Eyes.
Amazon 5 Star Reviews
I found Hema Macherla’s novel, Letters in the Sand a fascinating and engrossing read as I know nothing of village life in India in the 1970’s. At the outset of the story I was gripped by the characters and their personal predicaments, especially Kiri and her poor mother. An entire community, and individuals within it, has been brought to life with all their strengths and weaknesses. Political allegiances have been portrayed fairly and sympathetically. My eyes have been opened to the plight of young women at that time. I do hope the cruelty and degradation many of them endured is a thing of the past or, at the very least, has improved. In spite of the anguish and despair described so vividly, I’m glad that ultimately love shines through giving the reader a sense of hope for the future.
I loved this brilliantly written and very touching account of a little girl’s journey through childhood, overcoming rural tradition and custom…to learn and embrace the English language. Through the innocent eyes of a child, the author’s lively characterisation brings out in particular, the tender relationship between mother and daughter – a central theme running throughout the novel. Hema Macherla’s beautiful storytelling leaves one feeling profoundly struck by the overwhelming struggle faced by rural women in some parts of the world – just to have a basic education and a proper chance in life. A valuable lesson for those of us who take so much for granted and an absolute must-read for young and old alike.
Made me appreciate how much we women in the West take our education for granted!
Set in a time of change in India but alas not for Kiri. She is a strong, sympathetic character… Thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend.
A beautifully written book about a young girl in a small village in India in the 1970’s. Multiple issues are raised…from the caste system to the dowry system (although officially not legal) to the misogynistic way girls are treated to the political stance at the time to bonded slavery. All these themes, and more, are interwoven in such a way that the book is very easy to read, gripping and you just want to find out what happens next. Hence, page turner.Highly recommended read. I read it in 3 days. Look forward to the sequel!!
A literary beautifully written story set in 70s rural India amid issues of women seen as dowry commodities. Hema’s beautifully written novel is also blunt, in parts tragic amid India’s political and social upheaval of those times .The caste system is paramount. The story centres around Kiri denied education by a higher caste family who sees women as not requiring an education…Hema’s novel is a page turner, but is a thoughtful piece of writing. It’s a novel which one will want to re read and certainly store visibly pride of place
Delightful and nostalgic read…awakening the sweet memories of childhood
In her own style, the author deals very sensitively but very firmly with social and traditional issues in this fast-running and gripping story…It is a very authentic account of a girl’s life inside a conservative rural household. The author has skilfully re- created a socio-political drama in the style of social realism. Every chapter is written as if it was for a TV drama.
-B. Rama Naidu, Managing Trustee of Centre For Independent Researchers and TAL Advisor