THE SHERPA AND OTHER FICTIONS by Nila Gupta (Sumach), 176 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Ranging from the himalayas to the Don Valley Parkway and back, Nila Gupta's debut collection of short fiction is both graceful and powerful.
In The Sherpa And Other Fictions, she looks at the places she's known as home and bravely zooms in on areas of possible contention: a woman modernizes her father's sweet shop while he's on his death bed, Toronto cops raid Bloor Station, a daughter resists an arranged marriage. Gupta's appreciation for subtle rebels and unconventional romantics is clear.
Based in part on her own family's migration to from India to Canada, the nine stories in The Sherpa interconnect in slight ways. The title story, in which the narrator visits India for the first time since moving to the West and is warned by her father to "behave like a daughter for once," rings with the authenticity of personal experience.
Gupta's characters are real, distinct, charming, wise and well developed - a major success for a first short story collection.
Ultimately, it's her clean, swift and poetic writing that makes this collection unique. She navigates both cultures and countries with a fine tune to detail and thankfully avoids some authors' practice of inserting what feels like glossaries into the work.
Gupta's writing is smart and sincere. Her reflections and focal points are that of an astute, politicized, young woman - a hopeful new voice in the Canadian lit scene.