Synopses & Reviews
Rumi Vasi is 10 years, 2 months, 13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds old. Shes figured that the likelihood of her walking home from school with the boy she likes, John Kemble, is 0.2142, a probability severely reduced by the lacy dress and thick woolen tights her father, and Indian émigré, forces her to wear. Rumi is a gifted child, and her father, Mahesh, believes that strict discipline is the key to nurturing her genius if the family has any hope of making its mark on its adoptive country.
Four years later, a teenage Rumi is at the center of an intense campaign by her parents to make her the youngest student ever to attend Oxford University, an effort that requires an unrelenting routine of study. Yet Rumi is growing up like any other normal teen: her mind often drifts to potent distractions . . . from music to love.
Rumis parents want nothing other than to give Rumi an exceptional life. As her father outlines ever more regimented study schedules, her mother longs for India and forcefully reminds Rumi of her roots. In the end, the intense expectations of a family with everything to prove will be a combustible ingredient as an intelligent but naive girl is thrust into the adult world before she has time to grow up.
In her stunningly eloquent debut novel, Nikita Lalwani pits a parents dream against a childs. Deftly pondering the complexities and consequences that accompany the best intentions, Gifted explores just how far one person will push another, and how much can be endured, in the name of love.
Advance praise for Gifted
“A triumph . . . fluid, original, clever, glitteringly vivid, funny . . . All the conventional pieties and forms of Indian immigrant identity and trauma are so wittily preempted, and yet theres a sure grasp, at the serious core of the novel, of the deep reverberations of politics and history. I couldnt bear it when it ended.”
-Tessa Hadley, author of The Master Bedroom
“This is an outstanding piece of writing-rich, vivid, fluent, and well paced-with a wonderful cast of well-developed, engaging characters and a constantly surprising story line.”
-Gerard Woodward, author of A Curious Earth
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Nikita Lalwani was born in Rajasthan, India, and raised in Cardiff, Wales. She directed documentaries at the BBC for several years before receiving her MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University. Lalwani lives in London. Gifted
is her first novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. How does Rumis focus on mathematics influence the structure of the novel and the way she processes the world?
2. Shreenes sister in India tells her she was “always the lucky one.” Would you characterize Shreene as lucky? What are the grounds for Shreenes discontent and “desolation”? What similarities and disparities do you see between Shreene and her daughter?
3. “Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” Rumi cites this line from e.e. cummings during her first trip to India. What does rain, the moon, and the stars represent within Gifted? How do these elements surround Rumis relationship with Bridgeman?
4. How do the characters in Gifted contend with cultural stereotypes?
5. Reflect on the conversations between Mahesh and Whitefoot while playing chess.What do we learn about Mahesh through their interactions?
6. Does Rumi ever transcend her self-described role as an “irrelevant... observer”? If so, how?
7. Discuss the importance of ritual for Rumi and Mahesh within Oxford University, Indian culture and Western society.
8. Rumi becomes increasingly impulsive and self-destructive as the novel progresses.What influences and perpetuates these tendencies? What do the cumin seeds represent for Rumi?
9. Shreene repeatedly admonishes Rumi for asking “shameful” questions about bras and sex, even telling Rumi “that is not how our babies are born. Only white people have sex.” Why is Shreene so critical of Rumis inquiries? How do her questions represent a lack of “decency” and “respect” to Shreene? How do their arguments progress?
10. Mahesh explains that “the label ‘giftedwas meaningless to them as a family and ...a damaging idea to perpetuate in the population as a whole.” He believed that “any child could achieve this kind of knowledge and success rate, given the right developmental approach by the parents.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
11. Discuss the presence of duality throughout Gifted: between right and wrong, thoughts and actions, perception and reality, and logic and emotion. How does Rumi embody these dualities?
12. Rumi insists that her strict regimen in the hopes of reaching Oxford “is what [she has] chosen ...Until [she is] free.” Her mother maintains that Mahesh “has given [her] too much freedom,” while Mahesh is not “deluded enough to think that the world is full of choices.” Discuss the manipulation of choice within Gifted and its relation to freedom.
13. How do Rumis perceptions of herself evolve throughout Gifted? What influences how she sees herself? Why does she decide to “walk in the valley of truth”?
14. Are Mahesh and Shreene perpetrators, victims, or both?