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A Breath of Fresh Air (Ballantine Reader's Circle) [Kindle Edition]

Amulya Malladi
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On the night of December 3, 1984, Anjali waits for her army officer husband to pick her up at the train station in Bhopal, India. In an instant, her world changes forever. Her anger at his being late turns to horror when a catastrophic gas leak poisons the city air. Anjali miraculously survives. Her marriage does not.

A smart, successful schoolteacher, Anjali is now remarried to Sandeep, a loving and stable professor. Their lives would be nearly perfect, if not for their young son’s declining health. But when Anjali’s first husband suddenly reappears in her life, she is thrown back to the troubling days of their marriage with a force that impacts everyone around her.

Her first husband’s return brings back all the uncertainty Anjali thought time and conviction had healed–about her decision to divorce, and about her place in a society that views her as scandalous for having walked away from her arranged marriage. As events unfold, feelings she had guarded like gold begin to leak away from her, spreading out into the world and challenging her once firm beliefs.

Rich in insight into Indian culture and psychology, A Breath of Fresh Air resonates with meaning and the abiding power of love. In a landscape as intriguing as it is unfamiliar, Anjali’s struggles to reconcile the roles of wife and ex-wife, working woman and mother, illuminate both the fascinating duality of the modern Indian woman and the difficult choices all women must make.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

"A Breath of Fresh Air" is a fast and fascinating read. -- United Press International

A Breath of Fresh Air is a gift for all of us in these complicated times. -- Nancy Thayer, author of Custody

[An] accomplished debut novel, Malladi depicts believable characters...with grace and sensitivity, passion and pride. -- Booklist

From the Author

I was nine years old when my father, who was then a Major in the Indian Army, was posted in Bhopal, India. It was 1984 and the last half of the year showed me that the world was divided in the name of religion and made me come to terms with the finality of death.

Two incidents that took place in 1984 will forever be embossed in my memory: the death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

When Indira Gandhi died, for the first time I was faced with death. Most of my grandparents had all passed away before I had been born; only my paternal grandmother was alive. No one who was close to me had died and when Mrs. Gandhi passed away, I felt like someone I knew had gone away. It had nothing to do with politics, after all, what does a nine year old know about such matters, my devastation arose from losing someone who had been a constant in my little life. I distinctly remember watching her funeral and through out the ceremony I wished and hoped that they had made a mistake and she was actually alive.

In the aftermath of her death, the country went into mourning and chaos. The ensuing riots didn't leave anyone uninvolved. That was the first time I came face to face with the idea of a war between religions. What had seemed inconceivable to me--to fight in the name of religion--was happening and I struggled with trying to understand this. After all, my entire life, I had played and studied with children of all religions, caste and gender. Everyday I pledged my allegiance to my country at the school morning assembly and vowed that I would not discriminate in the name of religion.

Even before I could recover from Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, the night of December 3, 1984 brought with it more carnage and tragedy. We were having our half-yearly exams and I remember desperately memorizing something for a Sanskrit exam in the school bus. When I heard that there had been an explosion in the railway station and that all doctors (this came from children whose father's were doctors in the army) had been called away in the middle of the night, I was relieved. There probably wouldn't be an exam. We could go back home. It was days before I understood what had happened and how lucky we had all been.

The Army Center where we lived was just a few kilometers away from the Union Carbide plant. It was the wind, blowing in another direction that saved our lives.

For years I wanted to tell the story of that year, to convey what had happened without losing the small picture. I wanted to tell the story of people who were affected by what happened, how the human spirit is strong and no matter what is thrown our way, we survive.
A Breath of Fresh Air came to me years later when I was living in Utah, thousands of miles away in time and geography. I already knew who Anjali was, had known for several years but I didn't know who would tell her story or what her story would be. Slowly, it unraveled and I was caught up in her life and the story I wanted to tell found a voice.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good debut! 27 Jun. 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Amulya Malladi has written a poignant and wonderful book. A Breath of Fresh Air resonates with the power of love and the strength of the human spirit. The story begins in the railway station of Bhopal, India on the night of December 3, 1984. Anjali, a young bride is forgotten at the railway station by her philandering, army officer husband, Prakash, on the fateful night of the Bhopal gas tragedy when deadly gas leaked out of a Union Carbide plant killing and maiming thousands in the city of Bhopal. Anjali survives, but her marriage does not. Years later, happily married, Anjali is haunted by the aftermath of the gas tragedy as she and her new husband, Sandeep, watch their son, Amar, struggle for his life. Amar is born with birth defects resulting from the Anjali's exposure to the deadly poison. When fifteen years later, Prakash reenters Anjali's life, she finds that she must now confront her unresolved feelings surrounding her prior marriage and scandalous divorce. Unwillingly, Prakash is also forced to acknowledge his part in the failure of his marriage and Amar's failing health. This is a wonderful debut novel. A sad story told in the voices of Anjali, Prakash and Sandeep. It has been a long time since a book made me cry and by the end of this one, I was sobbing. A must read for fans of fiction from India and those who love a good story from anywhere.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Read! 2 July 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is without a doubt one of the best books I have read in a long time. In fact, I couldn't put it down! The story is about an Indian woman, Anjali, who survives the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. After the gas tragedy, she divorces her husband who was cheating on her and marries another man, a kind professor. They have a child, but the child has birth defects caused by Anjali's exposure to the toxic gas. The story starts with entry of Anjali's first husband into her life after fifteen years and how they all deal with what happened the night of the tragedy and its consequences. This is one of those books that stays with you long after you have finished reading it, but in a good way, not in a sad one. It also made me laugh, strange as that may sound. All the characters are very real, and you care what happens to each one of them. I am very impressed with Amulya Malladi's storytelling, and I look forward to reading anything else she may write. Don't wait for this book in paperback, it is worth every penny for the hardcover.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and beautifully written 21 Mar. 2007
By H. Ashford VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Amulya Malladi has a nice relaxed style, and her books are SO easy to read. This one tells us the story of Anjali, who is caught up in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984. Many years later, she has divorced her first husband (at a time when divorce was very unusual in India and for the woman to divorce the man absolutely unheard of!), remarried and has an invalid child.

When her first husband comes to live in the same town a hornets nest of unresolved emotion is stirred up. Malladi sensitively explores the relationships and feelings of all the people involved - Anjali herself, her new husband (who is a very nice, but not particularly successful professor in a small town university, and who worries that he cannot provide enough for his family), her first husband (who is now a highly successful figure in the army but cannot get over the shame of being divorced by his wife) and his second wife, Anjali's parents (who take her first husband's side and blame Anjali for the divorce), and other minor characters.

The characters are real - they jump off the page at you - and the descriptions of Indian culture (especially the role of women) are an eye-opener. This is a lovely book - very sad and thoughtful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional story 17 Sept. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great read. I couldn't put this book down once I started it. Beautifully written & tragic in places. Looking forward to reading some more of this author's stories.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Read! 29 Jun. 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is without a doubt one of the best books I have read in a long time. In fact, I couldn't put it down! The story is about an Indian woman, Anjali, who survives the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. After the gas tragedy, she divorces her husband who was cheating on her and marries another man, a kind professor. They have a child, but the child has birth defects caused by Anjali's exposure to the toxic gas. The story starts with entry of Anjali's first husband into her life after fifteen years and how they all deal with what happened the night of the tragedy and its consequences. This is one of those books that stays with you long after you have finished reading it, but in a good way, not in a sad one. It also made me laugh, strange as that may sound. All the characters are very real, and you care what happens to each one of them. I am very impressed with Amulya Malladi's storytelling, and I look forward to reading anything else she may write.
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