BLOOMSBURY REVIEW: NEW & NOTABLE MAY/JUNE 2009
MYSTERIOUS REVIEWS: “A memorable novel of exceptional merit…a beautifully crafted mystery of amazing depth, sensitivity, and complexity… as haunting in its style as in its substance… an outstanding story filled with family tensions and dark drama.”
USA TODAY: “Intriguing debut novel... draws on the broader mystical culture that envelops India, where there is always a supernatural explanation for everything that happens... seeks to give voice to the dispossessed through the supernatural.”
PORTSMOUTH HERALD: “A captivating, transporting novel…set to the rhythm of India’s climate. The parched heat strains tempers, and the still air lies heavy with secrets. The first monsoon rains bring giddy relief, renewing married love and awakening forbidden young hopes before the relentless wetness seeps into every crack and corner of the place, sprouting mold and hastening decay.”
NEEM MAGAZINE: “Richly provocative story woven through symbolism, masterful storytelling, and the infamous monsoons of India… a beautiful understanding of India of the yesteryears - haunted not just by a real ghost but by unspoken words, misunderstandings and deep rooted tradition.”
LIBRARY JOURNAL STARRED REVIEW: “Readers who enjoy a good ghost story will appreciate the tense interplay between the living and the dead as the former seek to deny, then ignore, then banish the latter. Those who prefer realism will find Agarwal’s snapshot of 1960s Bombay compelling and savor her attention to both historic and domestic details-the descriptions of food, jewelry, furniture, and religious ritual are particularly vivid.”
INDIA CURRENTS: “A brilliant gothic read…a desi game of Clue, a whodunit with all the usual suspects, set in a large home in an affluent neighborhood in the gloom of a relentless monsoon. But it is much more than that—it is about the marginalized, crying out from beyond the grave for their voices to be heard.”
KINGDOM BOOKS REVIEW: “A book of wide sweeping imagery and unforgettable characters… a literary novel, not a conventional mystery -- but in its parallels to the hauntings of Poe's stories and to the hot pulse of today's vampire narratives, HAUNTING BOMBAY earns a place within the genre.”
DHVANI REVIEW: “An intricate and complex narrative. Ghosts lurk, grandmothers hobble around being tough matriarchs, and adults in general behave quite badly. There is a huge cast of characters in this extended household, which includes all the servants and the neighbors. And all of them get their arc and back stories. A tall order for any book. It makes for a jam packed narrative which keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next…Haunting Bombay is smart genre fiction.”
BLOGCRITICS: “Glorious debut…both a rich tapestry of garish saris and exquisitely prepared meals set against the backdrop of an evolving Indian society, circa 1960, as well as a deftly plotted tale of the supernatural coupled with familial drama. For a debut novel, there is a cohesive narrative structure that is found usually in only seasoned writers [that]…drives the story like a freight train.”
REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE: "Moving slowly and gracefully as if underwater, focusing on light and dark and emotion instead of thought... this is a story that slowly unfolds in allusion and emotion, with the reader being left to infer from hints as much as being told what is happening… Although a ghost story, it relies less on scares and gore than it does on pervasive feelings of oppression and gnawing secrets, as inescapable as the heat of India."
GATHER: “Richly detailed story of a family in crisis…And hidden within Haunting Bombay are deeper secrets, ones which Agarwal slowly unfurls one by one and ones that help readers understand the mysteries of this ancient culture.”
SMITHSONIAN: “Secrets emerge, lies are told, truth is repeatedly obscured, and no one in the family is safe from harm. This is some delicious spine-tingling, hair-raising fun reading.”
AIMEE LIU: "In her stunning debut novel Shilpa Agarwal takes on the ghosts that bedevil young Pinky Mittal’s extended family and dispatches them with rambunctious wit and affection. The result is like a finely wrought mirror work, a glittering tapestry of vibrant contradictions, characters, and mysteries. Haunting Bombay flirts deliciously with the true spirit of India."
SAHER ALAM: "With deft lyricism and authority, Haunting Bombay tells a big story in swift and bold strokes—a story whose ending surprises and haunts, lingering long after you turn the final page."
MICHAEL BERNARD BECKWITH: “A journey through the caverns of India’s passionate, complex heart… Savor it.”