Anita Nair’s Mistress is written rendition of the traditional Indian dance form kathakali. American Chris Stewart comes into two lives. Radha is emotionally distanced and more than a bit contemptuous of her husband, Shyam; Chris has come to interview Radha’s Uncle Koman, who was once a famous kathakali dancer. Both Koman and Radha feel an immediate connection to Stewart. The young woman must choose whether to stay in her marriage or to flaunt custom and risk the shunning of her society to find what she perceives as true love. The true richness of the story belongs to Koman and his pursuit of excellence as a kathakali performer. His protector is his parakeet, Malini, who watches over him like a jealous lover. Even in his old age, Koman pursues his own mistress, finding comfort and no less passion than that of Radha and Chris, but perhaps one more comfortable with human failings. This is a performance and a book that will not be easily laid aside or soon forgotten.

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