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Authors: Shona Patel

Flame Tree Road

BOOK: Flame Tree Road
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From the acclaimed author of
 Teatime for the Firefly
comes the story of a man with dreams of changing the world, who finds himself changed by love

1870s India. In a tiny village where society is ruled by a caste system and women are defined solely by marriage, young Biren Roy dreams of forging a new destiny. When his mother suffers the fate of widowhood—shunned by her loved ones and forced to live in solitary penance—Biren devotes his life to effecting change.

Biren’s passionate spirit blossoms as wildly as the blazing flame trees of his homeland. With a law degree, he goes to work for the government to pioneer academic equality for girls. But in a place governed by age-old conventions, progress comes at a price, and soon Biren becomes a stranger among his own countrymen.

Just when his vision for the future begins to look hopeless, he meets Maya, the independent-minded daughter of a local educator, and his soul is reignited. It is in her love that Biren finally finds his home, and in her heart that he finds the hope for a new world.

Praise for Shona Patel’s debut novel,
Teatime for the Firefly

“Patel’s remarkable debut effortlessly transports readers back to India on the brink of independence…fans of romantic women’s fiction will be enchanted by [the]
Teatime for the Firefly
’s enthralling characters, exotic setting, and evocative writing style.”
—Booklist,
starred review
“The historical detail makes this debut novel a rich reading experience. Those who enjoy historical fiction and portraits of foreign cultures will surely love this book.”
—Library Journal
“Debut author Patel offers a stunning, panoramic view of a virtually unknown time and place—the colonial British tea plantations of Assam—while bringing them to life through a unique character’s perspective.… A lyrical novel that touches on themes both huge and intimate and, like Layla, is so quietly bold that we might miss its strength if we fail to pay attention.”
—Kirkus Book Reviews
“A captivating tale of discovery, adventure, challenge, romance and triumph over difficult conditions that rings with authenticity.”
—Bookreporter
“With lyrical prose and exquisite detail, Shona Patel’s novel brings to life the rich and rugged landscape of India’s tea plantation, harboring a sweet love story at its core.”
—Shilpi Somaya Gowda,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Secret Daughter
“Patel takes readers on a vivid tour of 1940s India, exploring the attitudes of the day and the traditions of the tea-growing region of Assam. The story ebbs and flows gracefully, sure to keep readers actively engaged and fervently enticed. Simply stated,
Teatime for the Firefly
is a true treasure.”
—RT Book Reviews
“A lush, rich love story combined with history and culture…this gem of a novel is a perfect read for anyone looking for a deep, engrossing tale.”
—All About Romance

Also from Shona Patel and MIRA Books

Teatime for the Firefly

FLAME TREE ROAD

SHONA PATEL

For Mothy, my sister,
the key to my authentic self

Contents

Epigraph

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

A Note to Reader’s

Acknowledgments

Reader’s Guide for
Flame Tree Road

A Conversation with the Author

Questions for Discussion

Excerpt from
Teatime for the Firefly
by Shona Patel

The traveler has to knock at every alien door
to come to his own,
and one has to wander
through all the outer worlds to reach
the innermost shrine at the end.
Rabindranath Tagore
From
Gitanjali

Small villages cluster the waterways of East Bengal in India. Seen from above they must appear like berries along a stem, dense or sparse depending on the river traffic that flows through. Crescent-shaped fishing boats skim the waters with threadbare sails that catch the wind with the hollow flap of a heron’s wing. Larger boats carry people or cargo: bamboo baskets, coconut and long sticks of sugarcane that curve on their weight down to the water’s edge. There are landing ghats along the riverbank with bamboo jetties that stick out over the floating water hyacinth. Here the boats stop and people get on or off and take the meandering paths that lead through the rice fields and bamboo groves into the villages.

Once a week, the big world passes by in the form of a paddleboat steamer bound for important destinations: Narayanganj, Dhaka, Calcutta. It shows up on the horizon, first a tiny speck the size of a peppercorn, and grows to its full girth as it draws closer. The village boats scatter at the sound of its imperious hoot, and small boys in ragged shorts jump and wave at the lascar who moves easily along the deck with the swashbuckling sway of a true seafarer. His long black hair and white tunic whip in the river breeze as the steamer gushes by with a rhythmic swish of its side paddles, leaving the tiny boats bobbing like toothpicks in its wake.

Once a bridal party loaded with pots and garlands caught the powerful wake of the steamer as it passed. It bounced the boat and almost tossed the young bride into the river. The shy young husband instinctively grabbed his wife, drawing her into an awkward but intimate embrace. The veil slipped from the bride’s head and he saw for the first time her bright young face and dark, mischievous eyes. He drew back, embarrassed. His male companions broke into wolf whistles and rousing cheers and his bride gave him a slant-eyed smile that made his emotions settle in unexpected places. During the remainder of the journey, their fingertips occasionally met and lingered under the long veil of her red and gold sari.

BOOK: Flame Tree Road
9.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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