After a gestation period of over five years (longer than that of an elephant!) my first novel, Other Waters, entered the world on February 14th, 2012. What made it even more exciting was that Other Waters was published by St. Martin’s Press, the same team that released my travel memoir, North of Ithaka, in 2005, and earned reviews I only dreamed of, including four out of four stars in People magazine.
Although I switched genres from nonfiction to fiction to write this book, Other Waters shares many of the same themes as North of Ithaka, such as immigration, coming of age, the strengthening, but sometimes suffocating, bonds of family, and the joys and struggles of being bicultural. Other Waters is the story of Maya Das, an Indian-American psychiatrist who thinks that her family is cursed. Over the course of the book she travels from New York, where she lives while pursuing her psychiatric residency, to India, and back again, in an attempt to lift the curse, save her family, and forge one identity while torn between two cultures. The novel is also about seeking—and surviving—love in all its forms (including familial, romantic, and the highly elusive love of self), while ricocheting between two worlds.
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Photos I took on research trips to India
I wrote the original manuscript of Other Waters while pursuing my Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. I would have never had the discipline to attempt writing fiction without the support and structure of the MFA program, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But I have to admit that my favorite part of working on Other Waters was taking three research trips to India. I hope my love for that beautiful, heartbreaking, and endlessly fascinating country comes across in the pages of the novel.
Praise for Other Waters
“A Jane Austen-ish plot gets a delicious Indian accent in this effervescent first novel.” 4/4 stars –PEOPLE magazine.
“Drawing on her own experience with family curses (recounted in her memoir, North of Ithaka), Gage makes a splendid fiction debut full of believable, fully developed characters and situations and set against exotic backgrounds. Readers who want to be swept away to far-off places will enjoy this book.” –Andrea Tarr, Library Journal
“Gage beautifully describes the waters that evoke the transformative moments of Maya’s journey…A lovely read.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Other Waters is Eleni N. Gage’s debut fiction novel. As I read it, like most readers do, I tried to fit it into a category. Was it about the bicultural experience? Was it a suspenseful mystery? Could it be chick-lit? I ultimately gave up because while it could be all of the above it also transcends these categories to become more than just the sum of its parts. The plot is compelling, the pace brisk and the characterization multi-layered. The novel follows Indian-American protagonist Maya Das as she travels from Manhattan to Jodhpur, Banaras and Mumbai, on a quest to rid her family of a curse. As she struggles to understand and resolve the immediate problem using a believable blend of multicultural sensibilities, she finds answers to more than just the question of the curse.
What makes the novel engaging is that along with a gripping story line, the author has created a multitude of realistic characters that escape being stereotypical .This feat is laudable indeed when the final twist in the plot is revealed—No I am not talking about the book now, although it does have enough twists to keep any self-respecting mystery-lover happy. The ultimate twist is that Ms. Gage who writes with such authenticity about the ‘desi’ experience is not, herself, South Asian.” –Michelle d’Mello, The Bamboo Online
“An impressive exploration of the cultural divides between a young woman and her loved ones in the U.S. and India.”– Roni K. Delvin, Shelf Awareness
“An interesting exploration of culture and, specifically, of the unique dilemma that faces the children of immigrants…If your book club is looking for a novel with some culture, this is a great choice.”—Swapna Krishna, S. Krishna Books
“Gage’s character development is perfect…Great book!”–Andrea Katz, Great Thoughts
“This story is timeless, beautifully written and a spectacular read that I highly recommend, a journey even the reader will not forget.”–Kitty Bullard, Great Minds Think Aloud
“The best novels are those that invite you into an utterly believable world of entirely authentic people in situations about which you care instantly. Eleni Gage’s beguiling narrative talent is in splendid evidence in Other Waters, making this fiction debut one of those enthralling novels.”– Katharine Weber, author of The Memory Of All That, True Confections, and Triangle, among others.
“Writing with rich, elegant detail, Eleni N. Gage proves herself an expert and insightful chronicler of both the new India, and of the women whose hearts and minds are caught in the transition.”– Samuel Park, author of This Burns My Heart
“In a first novel of impressive ambition, this fine young writer dives into deep waters, giving the reader a story that explores the tug of family ties that occasionally feel more like shackles, the legacy of a culture that both nourishes the soul, and curses it. Writing with assurance and an unblinking eye for the telling detail, Gage explores what it means to be a woman of two cultures, and sometimes of neither. Other Waters is a story that manages to be deeply satisfying in its description of a foreign land and at the same time, universal in what it tells us about family, culture, and the quest—that knows no geographic boundaries—for love.” – Joyce Maynard, New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day