Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Son of the Circus

John Irving's books can be full of wildly eccentric characters, and A Son of the Circus is no exception.  The book pivots around Bombay-born Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who practices at Sick Kids in Toronto.  A secret screenwriter for the infamous Indian Inspector Dhar films, he retains an apartment in Bombay and returns there periodically to work at the Crippled Children Hospital and to further his research to find the gene responsible for anachondroid dwarfism by testing the blood of dwarfs at the circus.  Inspector Dhar is played by John D., who was adopted by the Daruwalla family when his vapid mother, who had come to India to make a movie, gave birth to twins and only wanted one.  And this is just a taste of the  bizarre cast of characters:  the eccentric but lovable Daruwalla, the inscrutable John D.,  the ambitious dwarf Vinod who owns a limo service, the religious zealot Martin Mills who is John D's twin brother separated at birth, the ambiguous and sinister Rahul/Mrs. Dogar, the crippled boy and young prostitute headed toward the circus and a better life, and the angst-riven American hippie.  It makes one breathless just to lay out some of the characters in this book.  All of them struggle with where they belong and who they are, whether it's the feelings of the immigrant who never feels at home anywhere, the sexual ambivalence of several characters, the quest for religious faith.

Against this backdrop, the dogged Inspector Patel is working to solve a case of serial murders, with the help of this hodge-podge of characters.  The plot flies all over the place with total abandon.  The murderer is clear from the beginning, and the test is in catching the culprit with enough evidence to convict.

An indication of the quirkiness of the plot is the following line:  "Dr. Daruwalla's awareness that the source of his conversion to Christianity was the love bite of a transsexual serial killer had further diminished the doctor's already declining religious zeal".  Now strain to think of the plot development that led to that line occurring in the latter stages of the book!

I found this book quite interesting, because it takes place in India, and I'm traveling in India.  When our guide pointed out that the well-dressed beggar banging on our window at a red light was in fact a eunuch, I was immediately able to identify the person as a hijra, whose male sexual organs had been brutally removed (you don't want to know the details).  Whether I would find this interesting if it weren't for this connection, I'm not really sure.

1 comment:

xlpharmacy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.