This examination of love, marriage, and the state of modern India traces the experiences of three different Mumbai couples whose realities are shaped by disparate views regarding independence, parenthood, gender roles, and religion.
Aside from the voyeuristic pleasures (which are substantial), we get a sense of entering the consciousness of each character. So much of our personal lives can feel like desperate improvisation, but Flock reveals the scripts we consult — from novels, television, family lore and religion ... A small armada of books have explored the aspirations of India’s booming middle class ... What distinguishes Flock’s take is her interest in and access to the inner lives of married women who face particular constraints: Divorce is difficult to obtain and highly stigmatized ... Marriage is changing because women are changing ... We are...meeting the protagonists of a new global narrative.
Flock strives mightily to avoid cliché, with mixed success ... And for all its sophistication, the book feels compelled to remind readers of the basics: that caste divisions were said to have originated in ancient India, that Gandhi was father of the nation and so on. Still, on balance, 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 ... The Heart Is a Shifting Sea is a sober portrait of middle-class yearning — an earnest inquiry into what it is one might reasonably dream of finding in marriage.
A book that would have merited wide readership as a narrative of three marriages struggles to capture the nuances of a country in transition. Flock strives to meet the challenge by layering in historical detail. But facts sometimes get the better of her ... Flock doesn’t claim to speak for all marriages; yet her book functions as a stealthy argument for the wisdom of arranged matches, even if not all end in harmony ... arranged marriage, a practice that, for all its outward refinements, remains rooted in the denial of choice and autonomy, especially for women.