Epics Across the East

By Beacon Staff

When you need a change of scenery, it’s a lot cheaper to travel by story than by plane.

Instead of a 20-hour flight, the mere turn of a page takes you deep into the lives of the characters and their families, history, politics, food and memories.

These epic novels are full of far Eastern flavor, romance, misery and mystery.

Step back four decades to 1970s India, where two tailors, a widowed seamstress and a young college student are defined by the Indian caste culture and the harsh politics of the time in Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance.” The story is so vivid, you’ll almost be able to hear the street noise of Mumbai and the rolling music of the Hindi language.

At the foot of the Himalayas in “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai, a retired judge, his orphaned granddaughter and the family cook live in the midst of clashes between old and young, revolution and tradition, poverty and wealth. Nepal begins to struggle for independence, threatening the village’s safety and the possibility of young love.

You may be able to visit China, but there’s no way you can visit during the Manchu Qing Dynasty. “Empress Orchid” by Anchee Min is the story of a poor girl from rural China who becomes one among thousands of the emperor’s concubines, gives birth to his only son and later becomes one of his most trusted wives and advisors. This fictional take on a real historical figure imagines what may have taken place inside the Forbidden City at the turn of the 20th century.

Maybe time travel is possible after all.

A wide selection of books, music and films is available at the Flathead County Library System in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and Marion. For more information, visit www.flatheadcountylibrary.org.