In the vein of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, an intimate, deeply reported and revelatory examination of love, marriage, and the state of modern India—as witnessed through the lives of three very different couples in today’s Mumbai.
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.
The Heart Is a Shifting Sea 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. Though these three middle-class couples are at different stages in their lives and come from diverse religious backgrounds, their stories build on one another to present a layered, nuanced, and fascinating mosaic of the universal challenges, possibilities, and promise of matrimony in its present state.
Elizabeth Flock has observed the evolving state of India from inside Mumbai, its largest metropolis. She spent close to a decade getting to know these couples—listening to their stories and living in their homes, where she was privy to countless moments of 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.
“Journalist Flock invites readers into the homes, lives, and marriages of three couples… living in Mumbai in this multifaceted portrait of love and marriage in modern India.... Flock approaches the histories, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of her middle- and upper-middle-class couples as a reporter, not a storyteller, and the book is better for it, steering clear of caricature and sentiment, and letting each of her subjects emerge in the details of his or her own circumstances.... Flock’s book also provides a vivid portrait of a nation in transition.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
“Absorbing, candid.... An eye-opening exploration of how tradition and star-studded dreams shape love in modern India.” (Kirkus)
“The Heart is a Shifting Sea is 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: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting)
“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 nonjudgemental 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)
“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)