BY SUCHITRA BEHAL

Vegemite Vindaloo; David McMahon; Penguin; Rs. 295.

WHEN Ismail flees his fly-ridden, dirt-encrusted little village, he is on a journey to nowhere. A petty thief, Ismail gets into the habit of making money under the table to pay for the medication of his only son, whose constant illness baffles him. His wife Zarina and old father have no clue about Ismail's business. So when there is a police raid, Ismail's father advises him to leave with his wife and child and puts them onto the first train that rushes onto the platform. They land in the bustling metro of Kolkata. A chance encounter with Steve Cooper, a pilot, changes Ismail's life forever. While his wife works for the Coopers, he takes up odd jobs. Steve ends up looking after Ismail and his wife and finally takes charge of their little boy. When the Coopers decide to migrate to Australia, they are faced with the dilemma of what to do with their "second" child. Even as Steve is faced with the legalities of adopting the little boy, the biological mother's emotional breakdown leaves him with a sense of impending doom. In a cynical world, David McMahon's insistence on fairy tales seems too good to be true. But for those who believe in fairies, this is just the book to read.Ya-Yas in Bloom; Rebecca Wells; Harper Collins; £4.99. PICK up this book and go back in time. To the 1950s and 1960s when women wore frocks with flounces and ribbons and painted their nails to match their shoes. They also had an incredible talent for forming alliances and unlike the historical alliances these stood the test of time, boyfriends, children and everything else. The Ya Ya Sisterhood is one such. It all began when little Teensy Whitman pushes a pecan up her nose. That simple act sets off a chain of events that ends with her bonding with three other girls who romp through their sisterhood, from age four to 60. The Ya Ya sisterhood lives through the first blushes of romance, lust and marriage, kids becoming instant celebrities in their time. And as we are taken through a tour of their past and present, one can only hear the cheering chorus of those on the sidelines chanting "Rah Rah".Across the Mystic Shore; Suroopa Mukherjee; Macmillan New Writing; £ 6.99. IN every other sense, this would be a thriller — if it were not for the story that snakes through the pages toying slyly with the lives of its characters. When young Avinash is brought to the Sengupta residence, a sense of foreboding seems to settle on every member. Except for little Mira, who sees in the boy a soul mate and instantly takes him under her wings. Vandana and Sameer feel that their lives are being retraced in time, but on two distinct paths. Even in the comfort of matrimony, both realise with a shock that there are secrets, which they have never talked about. As they fathom the meaning of this, David, their friend, suddenly calls Sameer to say that he may be coming to stay with them for a while. How will David affect the balance of their lives? And what are the secrets that he and Sameer carry, wonders Vandana. In a strange twist, she goes back to the days when David meant everything to her. His moving away did nothing to cool the ardour or the want to be with him, but Vandana had schooled herself to accept the inevitable. Will his return once again haunt her and when did his friendship with Sameer, her husband, begin? In a story that takes strange twists and turns, against the backdrop of Varanasi, the eternal city, this is the tale of four women who are finally forced to confront their past to face the future.