Publisher's Note:  

Masterfully evoking the breathtaking beauty of India, Manisha Jolie Amin’s lyrical debut novel follows a young boy whose life takes an unexpected turn when he is sent to live with a reclusive but renowned musician.

Abandoned as a young child, Kalu, a cheeky street-kid, has against all odds carved out a life for himself in rural India. In the quiet village of Hastinapore, Kalu has also found friends: Bal, the solitary boy who tends to the local buffalos, and Malti, a gentle servant girl, who, with her mistress, Ganga Ba, has watched out for Kalu from the first day he wandered into the small town.


One day, perched high in the branches of a banyan tree, Kalu chooses a leaf, rolls it tightly and, as he’s done for as long as he can remember, blows through it. His pure, simple notes dance through the air and attract a traveling healer whose interest will change Kalu’s life forever, setting him on a path he would never have dreamt possible, testing his belief in himself and his sense of identity.


Richly textured and atmospheric, Dancing to the Flute is a magical, heart-warming story of a community’s joys and sorrows, the transformative powers of music, the many faces of friendship, and a boy’s journey, against all odds, to become a man.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Atria

Dancing to the Flute

by Manisha Jolie Amin

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Overall Review:  

Dancing to the Flute is a beautiful tale full of music and life that could be described as being a mix of August Rush and Karate Kid set in India.  In this tale, we run the gambit of every emotion.  The harsh realities of life are splayed out before us in great detail, but they are balanced with sweeping and glorious beauty: friendship, love, family, and finding our own self-worth.


We find that family doesn't necessarily mean blood relation and happiness almost never comes where we think it should!  This is a story of growing up and changing and coming full-circle.  Life throws us so many curves, how can we keep up? How can we know where we truly belong?


Kalu is a lovely character.  He has no family that he knows of, but he is still so full of life and spunk!  When his ankle is mysteriously injured, his life seems to come to an end.  Thankfully, he meets the healer (Vaid) who not only heals outer sores of his foot, but begins him on his journey to heal the insides and truly make something of himself.  The Vaid sees a passion and a talent inside of Kalu that promises more than just a musical prodigy, but a healing for many people. 


Kalu's teacher, Guruji, is a 'grumpy old man' who needs help and doesn't know it.  He lives with Ashwin--the kind servant who teaches Kalu about showing affection.  Ganga Ba, the one who first helped and named Kalu, is enough character for her own book!  She makes you laugh and cry!  Malti, a servant who works for Ganga Ba and is Kalu's friend, goes through so much in her life, but goes on to grow and become stronger and better in spite of it all.  Bal, the boy who was sold into slavery by his father, is never bitter and shows so much love toward Kalu and others whom he meets.  All of the characters in this story are rich and full of life and purpose.


Through Kalu's learning process, we find the deeper meaning of the music (the Indian 'raag' music)--its intricacies and how it shapes and moves life.  There are profound and meaningful teachings of life itself: how our experiences, good and bad, shape us and make us who we are.


Dancing to the Flute is a book that needs to be savored and re-read in order to enjoy all the deeper meanings and symbolisms.  It is thought provoking, full of culture and vibrant life, and most definitely not to be missed!

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 5 religious exclamations, 2 mild obscenities, 1 religious profanity, 3 derogatory terms.


Violence/Gore: Stories are told of people setting fire to themselves instead of capture, of doctors cutting off appendages, of characters trying to commit suicide, and of a terrible car accident where only one small child survives; a father beats a mother; a mother tries to poison her daughter; a father tries to push his daughter down a well; a character must put their hand in hot coals for an extended time to pay the price for stealing (3pg ext); two characters have a fist-fight after some name calling; a husband beats his wife; a character throws kerosene at another and lights a match intending to light the other on fire; a character is run through with a sword; a character commits suicide (stabbing); a character falls from a cliff (a brief description at the bottom follows) and dies.


Sex/Nudity: A character notices her body changing and references it; reference to a husband turning to other women; a character remembers the touch of their spouse; a story is told of a character who is caught with another man's wife; a character intends to do away with her husband in order to marry another; a character compares physical contact with husband to that of a lover (brief detail); a character is accused of cheating; characters touch in intimate ways; a husband's abusive use of sex is briefly detailed.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Abandonment, disease, death, slavery, abuse, growing up.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

A few characters smoke local cigarettes and marajuana; a character is known to be drunk more often than not; a character drinks a great deal after intending to have 'only one'; other drinking is mentioned.

Reviewed By Emily
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