The backdrop of the story is Mannargudi, a small town in Tamil Nadu, known for its Rajagopalaswami temple built during the reign of Kulothunga Chola-I (1070-1125). As the story unfolds, the scene shifts back and forth, taking the reader to Madras, San Francisco, Mysore, and Bangalore, before climaxing in San Francisco.

Stickler for values

Ramu Iyenger, an Office Superintendent in the local Taluk office, is an honest man and a stickler for values, who goes by the rules of the book which he knew like the back of his hand.

Thanks to these endearing qualities, he earned a name for himself in official and social circles. An ardent believer in God, he was convinced that one should seek the blessings of the town's presiding deity before starting the day's work.

He led an austere life, along with his wife, Rajam, and daughter, Andal, a charming girl with musical talents.

Tragedy strikes just when the family is planning to get Andal married. Ramu Iyengar dies in an accident, and the marriage plans go awry. As the television channels are flashing the funeral rites of the accident victim, the production manager of a film chances to see the grief-stricken Andal. Thereafter things move vast, Andal is cast as a heroine, and the movie proves to be a big hit.

Then there is Rangaswamy, son of a landlord in Mannargudi and a brilliant student with multiple talents, who wings his way to the United States, having landed a plum job there. He is also a dutiful son and an affectionate brother to his only sister Mythili, who loses her husband, Jayakumar, in an accident. She is left with a small child.

In San Francisco, Rangaswamy chances upon Andal at a film shoot and soon they trace their common nativity and family links, and discover that both had studied in the same school in Mannargudi. They are instantly drawn to each other, but Rangaswamy shows restraint by not committing himself to an early marriage, despite Andal's keenness.

He thinks his responsibility towards his family is greater and marriage could wait. Andal, however, is clear in her mind and wishes to settle in life after fulfilling her commitments to her producer. Does she have her way with her power of passion is the question.

Couplets

There are quite a few situations in the novel that seem contrived, as for instance the accidental deaths that take place in every family. Also, it appears rather odd to find the story interspersed with couplets from Thirukkural, which are given in Tamil script. Thankfully, a translation in English follows. But the names of songs are given wholly in Tamil, which makes it difficult for the non-Tamil reader to understand.

The book could have done with tighter editing and inclusion of a preface. The price too is on the high side for a book of this kind.

More In: Books