Rao, Cheeni. In Hanuman’s Hands. Harper, 2009. ISBN 978-0060736620 pp. $25.99
After his overdose, Cheeni’s father threatens to disown him if he doesn’t get clean, so he gets himself into a kind of halfway house with a motley crue of the marginalized. The young narrator thinks drugs give him a connection to the divine in a way his ancestors achieved through more spiritual means, and believes there is a curse on his family because they deserted the wrathful goddess Kali for the promise of the US. While suffering from DTs, he attempts to put the chaos of his life into some semblance of order.
The memoir swings like a pendulum from the author’s two-faced childhood in America (getting drunk, burning down houses, and attempting suicide while passing himself off as an earnest student on the college track) to his family history and pastoral life in the India. While the East meets West storytelling is presented in vivid, (sometimes lurid) sensory detail, it wanders all over the place timewise and I couldn’t get past the 50 page mark; “vivid as an acid trip” as proclaimed on the back cover didn’t work in this book’s favor, for me.