April 05, 1982 12:00 PM

by Bapsi Sidhwa

The Parsis in India are descended from ancient Persians and are members of a Zoroastrian sect. This rollicking novel is about a Parsi family headed by a marvelous character whose name is Faredoon Junglewalla—Freddy for short. The time is the turn of the century, and the British are still firmly in control in India. As the novel begins, Freddy leaves his native village for Lahore, where he settles down with his wife and growing family as a merchant. His problem is his widowed mother-in-law, a woman only 10 years older than he, who devotes all her considerable wit and energy to making Freddy suffer. This first novel is a funny, exotic, bawdy, ingenious, always entertaining book, full of surprises. It reveals fascinating details of these little-known people (who place their dead on towers to be stripped of flesh by vultures), providing a view of India that has been all but hidden from Westerners. The author, a Pakistani homemaker and mother of three, writes so vitally that her hero virtually seems to burst off the pages. (St. Martin’s, $10.95)

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