Plain, unmarriageable Uma has failed to outgrow her childhood home, with its bittersweet treats of puri-alu and barfi. Overprotected and starved for a life, she is smothered by her overbearing parents, successful sister Aruna, and Arun, the family’s disappointment of a son. Across the world in Massachusetts, where Arun has gone as a student, family life in an American suburb is bewilderingly different. The Pattons, who he lives with, appear strange and terrible. The women don’t appear to cook at all, though they stuff their shopping carts; the men barbecue huge chunks of meat; their daughter binges on innumerable candy bars. Increasingly, Mrs Patton is desperate to be a vegetarian, like Arun. But what Arun wants most is to be invisible. Moving from a traditional Indian household to an American one, Fasting, Feasting is a powerful exploration of hunger and plenty, and one of Anita Desai’s most socially acute novels.