A moving and powerful portrait of three marriages in present day Mumbai, often revealed in their most private and intimate details. It is through this level of detail that these stories are able to say something about why marriages work or fail in India or any country or cultural context.
In twenty-first-century India, tradition is colliding with Western culture, a clash that touches the lives of everyday Indians from the wealthiest to the poorest. While ethnicity, class, and religion are influencing the nation’s development, so too are pop culture and technology-an uneasy fusion whose impact is most evident in the institution of marriage.
Love and Marriage in Mumbai introduces three couples whose relationships illuminate these sweeping cultural shifts in dramatic ways: Veer and Maya, a forward-thinking professional couple whose union is tested by Maya’s desire for independence; Shahzad and Sabeena, whose desperation for a child becomes entwined with the changing face of Islam; and Ashok and Parvati, whose arranged marriage, made possible by an online matchmaker, blossoms into true love.
Elizabeth Flock spent close to a decade getting to know these couples-listening to their stories and living in their homes, where she was privy to marital joy, inevitable frustration, dramatic upheaval, and whispered confessions and secrets. The result is a phenomenal feat of reportage that is both an enthralling portrait of a nation in the midst of transition and an unforgettable look at the universal mysteries of love and marriage that connect us all.
Elizabeth Flock takes us on an intimate cruise on the shifting sea of the heart, in the best book set in Bombay that I’ve read in years. Flock’s total access to her characters, and her highly sympathetic and nonjudgmental gaze, prove that love and literature know no borders. Easily the most intimate account of India that I’ve read, and of value to anybody that believes in love and marriage. (Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City)
Flock is a careful, diplomatic interpreter of modern Indian life. Distilling large swaths of culture and history into brief, well-deployed asides, she keeps her focus on the couples themselves. What’s extraordinary about “The Heart Is a Shifting Sea” is the apparent ease with which Flock has unlocked these marriages. The reader is taken into the heart of their domestic lives, and allowed to linger as Flock gently excavates the childhood superstitions, religious beliefs and political upheavals that have left a mark on these particular unions. The result is deeply engrossing. (Mythili G Rao The New York Times)
Marriage in Mumbai are in synch, changing in unexpected and revealing ways. (The New Yorker)
This remarkable debut is so deeply reported, elegantly written and profoundly transporting that it reads like a novel you can’t put down. It’s both a nuanced and intimate evocation of Indian culture, and a provocative and exciting meditation on marriage itself. (Katie Roiphe, author of The Violet Hour)
… an intimate look at life in India, yet its intricately reported, novelistic portraits of marriage will resonate regardless of where you live. This book will keep you up reading deep into the night; it will make you ignore your loved ones, shirk your responsibilities. It is that good. (Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex)
Elizabeth Flock has invented a new way of telling a love story. It’s part journalism, part true fable, and it takes you deep inside a country. Whatever it is, I couldn’t stop reading it. (Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé)
About the Author
Elizabeth Flock is a reporter for PBS NewsHour. She began her career at Forbes India Magazine, where she spent two years as a features reporter in Mumbai, and has worked for U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. She has also written for major outlets, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, and the Hindu. She lives in Washington, DC. Love and Marriage in Mumbai is her first book.