In Sudha Challa’s moving novella, Hotel Highway Very Most Famous, an Indian woman discovers her remarkable strength and wisdom following her husband’s betrayal.
The story begins with a saying from the Panchatantra, an ancient Indian book of fables and folktales, that maps out its premise: “Better than a foolish son/ Is one deceased or never born/ The pain given at least is brief/ But the fool is cause for lifelong grief.”
As Radha travels to meet her estranged husband, Prabhakar, she recounts memories of their marriage and their sudden separation 16 years earlier. Prabhakar had left India for London without offering any prior notice to Radha or his family. His abrupt departure was devastating to Radha and their children, and it left Prabhakar’s father shocked and ashamed of his son’s actions.
On the way to their meeting place at the Hotel Highway Very Most Famous, Radha struggles to determine his intentions for setting up the rendezvous and tries to determine how she should react and respond to Prabhakar.
The narrative is buoyed by fascinating descriptions of Indian culture. Radha adheres to her family’s traditions and the values her father, a Sanskrit scholar, taught her. Yet, she’s also eager to learn about the outside world.
The stories of other characters relevant to Radha’s journey develop and expand the novella. Tony, Radha’s driver, recalls his childhood and his grandmother’s sense of abandonment after her husband left. The narrative explores marital issues that continue to torment Shanta, Radha’s friend. The impact of Prabhakar’s departure is also extensively examined from his parents, friends, siblings, and the community’s viewpoint. Readers will find surprising revelations towards book’s end.
Hotel Highway Very Most Famous is an engaging story with a compelling lead character. It will satisfy any reader attracted to themes about family, courage, and overcoming hardship.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.