Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book review: Gifted, by Nikita Lalwani

This book is a difficult but important read for anyone who has felt unbearable pressure during childhood from their parents. Gifted is the story of Rumi, whose brilliance at mathematics propels her father, a professor himself, to push her into greater and greater achievements of excellence. Rumi's father and mother were raised in India but moved to Cardiff, Wales, before she was born. Cultural tension certainly exists in the book; not so ironically, Rumi dreams of India because of the acceptance she feels during her visits there.

Rumi's parents are a study in the classic narcissist/borderline pairing, and they conspire to rob their daughter of any chance of a normal childhood. They restrict and regiment her life so that all of her time is spent studying and nurturing her gift. Her journey is one from love of math and pride in her own talent to loathing herself, her parents, and her subject. The family is miserable and typically not self-aware; at times the parents seem a bit one-dimensional, but that's partly because they are being seen through the eyes of their child, and partly because monomaniacs always are one-dimensional.

A very interesting examination of the ways in which children's spirits can be broken, this novel will resonate with many people and open the eyes of those whose childhoods were more balanced.

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