I don’t quite know how to write a post about She of the Mountains. Really, I think I might like this book too much and be too emotional about it to write a good review! So apologies in advance for being extra rambly…
She of the Mountains is the best book I read this year. It might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. This book made me cry three times on the green line T and I never cry in public. When I finished reading it I started again immediately. It might live on my nightstand forever. Reading this book was difficult but felt like an act of self care.
To be fair, I do really love poetic novels. One of my other all-time favorites is The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. Both Carson and Shraya’s novels weave together myth, sexuality, and self in a way that feels (to me) almost perfect. Both deliver concrete, fresh imagery and mesmerizing lyrical prose.
She of the Mountains comprises two stories: the Hindu myth of Parvati (the goddess of love and fertility) and Shiv (the god of destruction), and a contemporary coming of age love story. The unnamed protagonist, a queer Indian boy living in Canada, is taunted at school and made to feel uncomfortable with his sexuality and body. As he works to fit himself into a narrowly defined mold of what it means to be gay and perform the identity that his classmates and his city’s small gay community have assigned to him, he falls deeply in love with a woman. The rest of the novel charts their love and the complexities of sharing a queer life.
Shraya discusses race, gender, queer gatekeeping, sexuality, and how messy and hard it can be to exist in our own bodies with stunning truth and complexity. The intimate, precise way Shraya writes about love made me feel like I knew and loved both of the characters in the contemporary love story. And the mythological love between Parvati, Shiv, and their son Ganesha was equally powerful. Honestly, reading this book reminded me of a little bit of the first time I read Hunger by Roxane Gay. I had that same sense of damn, how did they do that and wow, this is really honest writing.
She of the Mountains is heartbreaking and beautiful and a pleasure to read. Also, the book’s design and illustrations by Raymond Biesinger are gorgeous. This will be the book I buy for friends because I want everyone to read it but I will never want to part with my own copy.
Read this book—I don’t think you’ll regret it.