Wendy Lamb Books / 224 pages / 8 February 2005
What a refreshing change to get a look at the world through very different eyes. Maya Mukherjee is not the typical heroine or the typical adolescent you meet in fantasy novels, at least not in the U.S. and Europe markets. An Indian girl, growing up in Canada, pulled in several directions at once and caught between cultures, she is quite unique. On the other hand, maybe she is your typical kid, dealing with the same things we all face at that age. How she handles things is a whole other story, and an enchanting story it is.
Nothing is going right for poor Maya. All she wants is to fit in, win the heart of the cutest boy in her school, and become a great beauty. That’s no more than any young girl dreams of and wonders why she can’t have. When it gets to be too much for Maya to bear she hits upon an unusual course of action: appeal to the great god Ganesh to make all her wishes come true. Ganesh, a genial if gluttonous god, warns her that she might not really want all obstacles in her path removed, but, like every person offered a magical solution to their real and imagined troubles, she doesn’t really pay attention to the advice. Of course, as always happens, she lives to regret that rash decision.
No more dazzling India born and raised cousin to distract her peers. No interfering mother and father to refuse to see how grown up she is. No physical flaws to cause her massive trauma. Life should be wonderful. Maya should have everything she ever wanted and more. Hardly. The way to path to happiness never lies through easy answers. But the way things begin to unravel around her is especially alarming. And her open doorway to Ganesh is now halfway ’round the world…Though Maya Running is aimed at middle-schoolers, no one can read it without seeing a glimpse of themselves in the flustered and frustrated heroine. We have all felt like Maya at some point in our lives. From the big man on campus to the square pegs in school, there is always something unattainable that we simply cannot live without. It is the equal-and-opposite reaction to having those dreams handed to us that we don’t stop to consider. If a reader hasn’t been in Maya’s place it’s just because it hasn’t happened yet — but it will.
So, the basic set-up may sound familiar, but the story itself is unique. Seeing the world through Maya’s eyes is to view things from a new perspective, through layers and layers of culture and expectations. It’s always a treat to get a glimpse of another world and Anjali Banerjee brings the Indian and Canadian society vividly to life. Jovial and piggish Ganesh is the kind of original and entertaining character that seems to exist only in magic realism. Between the elephant-head god and the desperate girl they drive the fast-paced plot, making it a book to read in one sitting and reflect upon when looking at our own lives and dreams.