Author: Anita Nair
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0140293205
A haunting first novel that announces the arrival of a major new talent.
Set in the sleepy little village of Kaikurissi in northern Kerala, The Better Man is a fascinating exploration of the undercurrents that run beneath a seemingly idyllic rural existence. Munkundan, a retired government employee, has been forced by circumstances to return to his village which he had fled when he was eighteen. Back in his ancestral house, he is tormented by the memory of his mother, whom his father Achuthan Nair had left for another woman. Obsessed, too, with the idea that he had failed to live up to his father's expectations, Mukundan lives life in a limbo of discontent.
Enter one-screw-loose Bhasi, Kaikurissi's eccentric genius, housepainter by profession and healer by vocation. Intrigued by Mukundan's unhappiness, Bhasi makes it his mission to get to know him, and a brittle but all-consuming relationship develops between the two men. Mukundan's betrayal of Bhasi's trust and his eventual redemption forms the core of the novel. There are also brilliant cameos of Achuthan Nair, of Anjana - the schoolteacher Mukundan falls in love with - and of Power House Ramakrishnan, the devious businessman who schemes to deprive Bhasi of his land.
Rich in social detail and written with remarkable ease and restraint, this is a first novel of rare sophistication.