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All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India

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When she was seven, Rachel Manija Brown's parents, post-60s hippies, uprooted her from her native California and moved to an ashram in a cobra-ridden, drought-stricken spot in India. Cavorting through these pages are some wonderfully eccentric characters: the ashram head, Meher Baba, best known as the guru to Pete Townshend of The Who; the librarian, who grunts and howls n When she was seven, Rachel Manija Brown's parents, post-60s hippies, uprooted her from her native California and moved to an ashram in a cobra-ridden, drought-stricken spot in India. Cavorting through these pages are some wonderfully eccentric characters: the ashram head, Meher Baba, best known as the guru to Pete Townshend of The Who; the librarian, who grunts and howls nightly outside Rachel's window; a holy madman, who shuffles about collecting invisible objects; a middle-aged male virgin, who begs Rachel to critique his epic spiritual poems; and a delusional Russian who arrives at the ashram proclaiming he is Meher Baba reincarnated. Astutely observed and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is an astonishing debut memoir—now available in paperback—and the arrival of a major new literary talent. The hardcover edition was named a Book Sense Pick and was selected as a Book of the Week by BN.com's Book Club.


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When she was seven, Rachel Manija Brown's parents, post-60s hippies, uprooted her from her native California and moved to an ashram in a cobra-ridden, drought-stricken spot in India. Cavorting through these pages are some wonderfully eccentric characters: the ashram head, Meher Baba, best known as the guru to Pete Townshend of The Who; the librarian, who grunts and howls n When she was seven, Rachel Manija Brown's parents, post-60s hippies, uprooted her from her native California and moved to an ashram in a cobra-ridden, drought-stricken spot in India. Cavorting through these pages are some wonderfully eccentric characters: the ashram head, Meher Baba, best known as the guru to Pete Townshend of The Who; the librarian, who grunts and howls nightly outside Rachel's window; a holy madman, who shuffles about collecting invisible objects; a middle-aged male virgin, who begs Rachel to critique his epic spiritual poems; and a delusional Russian who arrives at the ashram proclaiming he is Meher Baba reincarnated. Astutely observed and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is an astonishing debut memoir—now available in paperback—and the arrival of a major new literary talent. The hardcover edition was named a Book Sense Pick and was selected as a Book of the Week by BN.com's Book Club.

30 review for All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sunil

    This memoir is about a seven-year-old white girl whose parents take her to Ahmednagar, India to live in an ashram with disciples of Baba, a spiritual leader (deceased at the time) who claimed he was God (and Jesus and Krishna and Buddha and just about everyone else). She is the only foreign child there. At the ashram, she's surrounded by wackaloons whose explanation for everything is "Baba's will," and at school, she's surrounded by kids who throw rocks at her for being an outsider and teachers This memoir is about a seven-year-old white girl whose parents take her to Ahmednagar, India to live in an ashram with disciples of Baba, a spiritual leader (deceased at the time) who claimed he was God (and Jesus and Krishna and Buddha and just about everyone else). She is the only foreign child there. At the ashram, she's surrounded by wackaloons whose explanation for everything is "Baba's will," and at school, she's surrounded by kids who throw rocks at her for being an outsider and teachers who beat her for not uncapping a pen. It's a very funny book! I don't know why I didn't expect it to be so funny, but it came as a pleasant surprise. After reading the first chapter, I knew it was a book I'd have a hard time putting down. I know Rachel has a great sense of humor, so of course she can tell a funny yarn or seventeen about her wacky adventures in India. It was fun to see India from her outsider's perspective—especially since I kind of come from the same perspective when I visit. She mines a lot of laughs out of the strange mannerisms (the shake/nod), multipurpose euphemisms ("He is out of station"), and crazy drivers. Her tone is not mocking but bewildered. She was a very precocious, cynical child, which makes her an interesting tour guide. I was reminded somewhat of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, as both are about a kid trying to fit in in a different culture. They also have a similar narrative structure. Fishes doesn't really have a strong narrative throughline, exactly; rather, each chapter is sort of a little short story describing a particular character or group of characters or relating a specific anecdote. I didn't mind because, as I said, the book is very funny and the stories are entertaining, but after about 200 pages, I began to get a little frustrated, wondering what the purpose of including each chapter was. How did they all fit together? Was this incident really important for her growth? Memoirs are weird because life isn't always narratively satisfying. I had to stop looking for a clear story and just appreciate it as a collection of interesting experiences that were a formative and memorable part of her childhood, whether or not their influences were clear and defined or not. Not to say that there isn't a story. As you would expect, Rachel's relationship with her parents grows and develops over the course of the book. As does Rachel, of course. She becomes obsessed with Indian history and, while the people around her idolize Baba, she idolizes stalwart soldiers who stood their ground and fought and died for what they believed in. So she fancies herself a soldier. And the image of a little eight-year-old girl trying to survive her childhood by becoming a soldier is just too cute and adorable. And sad? Maybe a little sad.

  2. 5 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    Love ! I love a book that makes me feel something even if it pulls me in a million different directions. I am far more heart than head, and even when using more head, it is to think about things in my heart ! This book made me cringe, giggle, smile, smirk, roll my eyes, gasp and laugh out loud. It was that good. Basically the story of a 7 year old who was brought to India by her unconventional parents to live in Baba Meher's ashram. Book includes tales of severe punishment and beatings in school, o Love ! I love a book that makes me feel something even if it pulls me in a million different directions. I am far more heart than head, and even when using more head, it is to think about things in my heart ! This book made me cringe, giggle, smile, smirk, roll my eyes, gasp and laugh out loud. It was that good. Basically the story of a 7 year old who was brought to India by her unconventional parents to live in Baba Meher's ashram. Book includes tales of severe punishment and beatings in school, only 2 showers a week ( now that made me gasp in horror being as I have OCD and that would never work for me ! ), strange people who makes sounds, scorpions in slippers, people in need of psychiatric help rather than a retreat, divorce, infidelity, animal neglect, loneliness, poor sanitation, horrible transportation and everything in between.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Read this over Thanksgiving and have been mulling it about in my little brain since then. On the surface, this is a decently written memoir about a girl dragged off to India by her ex-hippie parents to live in an Ashram dedicated to the life and teachings of Meher Baba. There are some humorous parts, some heartbreaking parts. The thing that makes this different for me is that I know just about every person who appears in this memoir (book disclaimer: the names have been changed to protect the in Read this over Thanksgiving and have been mulling it about in my little brain since then. On the surface, this is a decently written memoir about a girl dragged off to India by her ex-hippie parents to live in an Ashram dedicated to the life and teachings of Meher Baba. There are some humorous parts, some heartbreaking parts. The thing that makes this different for me is that I know just about every person who appears in this memoir (book disclaimer: the names have been changed to protect the innocent, guilty, ignorant, insane, and normal who appear in the book.) The last time I saw the author of this book, she was probably about 8. At 8, many of us are not at our best, but I do remember her to be bright, somewhat precocious and pretty remarkably left to thrive or fail on her own while her parents were busy elsewhere. Precocious children are not always easy to be around, and particularly if they're inquisitive, can be annoying. It's hard to be essentially the only child in an adult environment. As to the depictions of the people in the book, she was clear enough that I could easily identify all but a few (and it turns out from reading her website that she made "compilation" characters for a couple of folks in the book, when introducing a new person into the narrative wouldn't necessarily add to the flow of the story. I can live with that.) I know that there are those familiar with the book who will find it odd I am not upset about one particular occurrence in the book. If you know what I mean, and wonder why I am not angry/horrified/upset/bereft etc, write me privately and I'm happy to discuss it with you. I just don't want to do it here, in a public forum. (And no, I'm not in the book at all, though I do regret not knowing how much she loved to read. I would have sent her some awesome books.) I've often thought, whether looking at the lives of saints, or any of the figures that have been declared God-incarnate, that were these souls not seen as holy, they'd be seen as insane. (I remember having discussions about this with my father back in 1979-80 after we each travelled to India, and to this particular ashram to visit. The Free Dispensary nearby is where I did so much volunteer work before I returned home to marry.) But having felt the power of God in many places and times in my own life, I have no doubt that holiness can be found in people and in places. And that it often goes unrecognized or misinterpreted. The thing about this book that do I respect is that Rachel Manija Brown has told her story, and acknowledges that there are other viewpoints, even for the recollections she shares. And that she recognizes and respects the beliefs of others. She may not agree or believe herself, but she acknowledges that what others feel/believe is true for them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kes

    This book is probably the best evidence I've seen that just because you have a story to tell, doesn't mean you should write a book. My mother picked this up, and after reading the blurb we were both keen to read it as it sounded like a very interesting read. I nabbed it to read it first, which almost entirely meant that I got the honour of reading out the most self-congratulatory, precocious, annoying snippets for us to mutually poke fun at or grimace at how this ever got published. While it has This book is probably the best evidence I've seen that just because you have a story to tell, doesn't mean you should write a book. My mother picked this up, and after reading the blurb we were both keen to read it as it sounded like a very interesting read. I nabbed it to read it first, which almost entirely meant that I got the honour of reading out the most self-congratulatory, precocious, annoying snippets for us to mutually poke fun at or grimace at how this ever got published. While it has everything going for it on paper - an endless, interesting cast of eccentric characters, a unique setting (the country of rural India, the ashram, the strict Catholic school) and a religion/way of life I knew nothing about, the book as a whole was... boring. Descriptions were either too long, too short or extremely irrelevant. I was tempted to skip over stories of gore and heroes and festivals. And I have never before read a memoir where the author seemed to go out of her way to make herself intolerable. All she does is correct adults, think about how stupid adults are, disregard everything that is said to her, and mention the names of books she's reading (ok ok, we get it, you were reading at a college level.). In the first chapter, in fact, she mentions the title of her book, corrects her parents, sasses her mother, corrects a stranger by identifying the danger of welding an engine, and is the only one to think of leaning the opposite way as their car teeters over a cliff. She is seven years old. The final few chapters are about her deciding to write the book and writing the book, and entirely pointless. This book had limitless potential and couldn't have failed harder at living up to it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Francesca Forrest

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (also posted on LJ--content is the same) I’ve been wanting to read this book, the author’s memoir of years spent as the lone child in an ashram in hot and dusty central India, for quite some time. I’m interested in the emotional costs of alternative lifestyles, in how children cope with the untenable situations they sometimes find themselves in, and what sense they make of their caregivers’ decisions. I was wary as I approached the book because I knew, from Rachel’s blogging, some of the things sh (also posted on LJ--content is the same) I’ve been wanting to read this book, the author’s memoir of years spent as the lone child in an ashram in hot and dusty central India, for quite some time. I’m interested in the emotional costs of alternative lifestyles, in how children cope with the untenable situations they sometimes find themselves in, and what sense they make of their caregivers’ decisions. I was wary as I approached the book because I knew, from Rachel’s blogging, some of the things she’d suffered as a kid, and I thought the book had the potential to be harrowing. She could have written it that way, but instead she wrote it with humor. What a difference that made! Without in any way trivializing the horrors she witnessed and experienced, her humor makes the book not only bearable, but a real pleasure. It’s a good book. It’s a really good book. It’s so good that I was reading it out loud to my family and recommending it to people at random. The pleasure comes not only from her humor, but also from her insight, as when she thinks about the lessons she, her mother, and her driver Khan have taken from their dangerous childhoods: Mom and Khan and I had all grown up knowing that no one would protect us, but we had taken different messages from the same lesson. Khan learned that the hard survive and the empathetic are crushed. Mom learned that all suffering is for a reason, and the greater the pain, the greater the purpose. I learned to see every injured stranger as a fallen comrade. This got me wondering about how we choose the the message we take from life. Is it possible to? Is it down to chance? Luck? Personality? Rachel is clearly a fighter from the beginning, and throughout. Bullied at school, she manages to persuade a number of fellow victims into jumping the bully and giving him quite a trouncing. Others step up to fill his shoes, but that particular boy never picks on her again. Later, she adopts the historical warrior hero Shivaji as a role model. She describes him as “a guerilla fighter, a trickster, an Indian Robin Hood,” a leader of the Marathas, a people who “rarely sacrificed their lives to a losing cause, and often enough … died successful, contented, and in bed.” She notes that “if Maratha warriors committed suicide, it was for personal reasons or to escape torture”—an observation that’s especially significant when you get to the chapter in which Rachel herself is driven to attempt suicide by what she’s experiencing. On the verge of stabbing herself, she asks herself if any of the Marathas she admires committed suicide. She picks up her history book to check … and decides that it would be a shame to waste the time I had now, that I could spend reading a book or otherwise doing something fun, being dead … How could I sacrifice the rest of this day? I was safe at home, and nothing terrible was likely to happen until tomorrow. I got up, replaced the knife and the chair, and picked up History of the Marathas. I could always kill myself later. People do come along who encourage her. There’s Nancy, who compliments her on her writing talent (“the first time that … an adult had praised me in a way that I could believe,” she recalls), and Carla, who introduces her to Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books and the concept of genre fiction, and Walter, a boy who becomes her friend in escapist adventure games and whose own family life leads her to realize that “I wasn’t the only one of our duo who had trouble with real life.” And that’s another thing I enjoyed about the book: Rachel’s personality. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but she’s also extremely generous, empathetic, honest, and fair-minded. I was very touched that she included, at the end of the book, a letter that her mother had written describing a dream that her mother claimed Rachel had had as a child. It’s nothing like anything the Rachel we know from the book would be likely to dream and very much the sort of thing that Rachel’s mother would like to have Rachel dream, but Rachel includes it anyway, a kindness to the mother who was, to be blunt, largely responsible for Rachel’s childhood unhappiness. Why does she include it? Because “it seems only fair to give her this small chance to misrepresent me,” Rachel says. Well. What more can I say. I highly recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I predict that this will be the least cogent review of a book I ever give. Toward the very end of this book, the author describes how she decided to write about her childhood, and break her silence on the misery she'd endured. She spent a long time thinking of everyone else who would be hurt by her sharing her memories, but eventually decided that breaking the silence, and finding her voice, was most important. That was round about the moment I realized this book had been hammering away at my own I predict that this will be the least cogent review of a book I ever give. Toward the very end of this book, the author describes how she decided to write about her childhood, and break her silence on the misery she'd endured. She spent a long time thinking of everyone else who would be hurt by her sharing her memories, but eventually decided that breaking the silence, and finding her voice, was most important. That was round about the moment I realized this book had been hammering away at my own red hot buttons, and hard. So I will say this - this is simply and elegantly written; I didn't always follow why the narrative paths went the direction that they did (and frequently wondered, 'what's the point of this story?') but that may have more to do with my own personal discomfort than the author's craft; I wanted more - to know more of what happened after the author left the ashram and began to rebuild her life; how that went; how she figured out how to heal. (Again, that may be strongly influenced by my own story.) It's a thought-provoking book, and an even-handed exploration of religious devotion, even while the author's recounting the awful things that came with her being forced to follow the religious devotion someone else felt. I'm not sorry I read it. I'm not really sure I liked it. And from left field - as I looked up snippets about the book online, I saw many references to this book and Eat, Pray, Love in the same breath. Suggesting that the two have anything in common is like comparing The Scarlet Letter and a memoir about the Birmingham church bombing, just because both feature churches. I'm grateful that this book is out there, disabusing the gullible of any notion they might have that ashrams are uniformly enlightened places and India is an uncomplicated spot where self-awareness flows from rocks like honey. But there's room in the world for all sorts, and while Liz Gilbert's book shouldn't be taken to suggest that India is ground zero for internal peace (indeed, she'd say anything but), that's no different from presuming India is more than this author's experience of an ashram and the slightly (or very) demented western residents therein.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really wanted to give it 3.5 stars. This book hit home for me in many ways. I don't want to make this review about me, but let me say that I have spent time in India, in an Ashram (a different one) and then 5 years simply living there (nothing to do with the mentioned Ashram). So I could easily identify with Rachel and the people she lived with. And yes India is really that insane. All of it.Bizarre things happen on a daily basis. (I KNOW) This book for me was like looking in a mirror in some I really wanted to give it 3.5 stars. This book hit home for me in many ways. I don't want to make this review about me, but let me say that I have spent time in India, in an Ashram (a different one) and then 5 years simply living there (nothing to do with the mentioned Ashram). So I could easily identify with Rachel and the people she lived with. And yes India is really that insane. All of it.Bizarre things happen on a daily basis. (I KNOW) This book for me was like looking in a mirror in some ways...like looking into a shared past,like visiting home. It made me miss aspects of the life I had there. Well...it brought those feelings to the forefront (I think about India frequently, my experience was more positive) If you are curious about India...life in India..the people...etc, take a leap..read this book. Keep in mind the author is dealing with her issues; so we are sharing her "crap". But we all have "crap". And its funny. I had several laugh out loud moments. And I can say that I have been inspired....maybe one day I will write my own memoir...I can only hope that I can write it with the humour this book has.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Antonia Murphy

    FABULOUS. This book was nimble, elegant, wise and funny as hell. The author's childhood encompassed everything from the gruesome to the bizarre, but instead of taking a self-pitying tone (which she could have quite easily done ), she finds humor and love-- however misguided-- in the adults around her. In doing so, she conveys how she has grown up and learned to see the silly, wayward hippies who raised her with compassion. I admire her technique and the rich portraits she paints of guru-smitten s FABULOUS. This book was nimble, elegant, wise and funny as hell. The author's childhood encompassed everything from the gruesome to the bizarre, but instead of taking a self-pitying tone (which she could have quite easily done ), she finds humor and love-- however misguided-- in the adults around her. In doing so, she conveys how she has grown up and learned to see the silly, wayward hippies who raised her with compassion. I admire her technique and the rich portraits she paints of guru-smitten seekers--all worthy of an Ionesco play-- but mostly I just laughed out loud and kept turning the pages. Thank you, Rachel. Your book was a joy to read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    In this memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost Rachael Manija Brown, starts it off with a quote by -George Bernard Shaw- __ If you have skeletons in your closet, you may as well make them dance.__ and that is exactly what she has done. The author writes very descriptively, so wonderful to read.. It is sometimes quite funny, often a bit horrifying, but everything she describes and goes through, give us an amazingly interesting story. Rachael or Mani as she was called while there, had a pretty t In this memoir, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost Rachael Manija Brown, starts it off with a quote by -George Bernard Shaw- __ If you have skeletons in your closet, you may as well make them dance.__ and that is exactly what she has done. The author writes very descriptively, so wonderful to read.. It is sometimes quite funny, often a bit horrifying, but everything she describes and goes through, give us an amazingly interesting story. Rachael or Mani as she was called while there, had a pretty tough childhood. She was the product of free spirited __hippie__ Parents, the mother being the fanatic Baba follower,and quite a character, the father more or less along for the ride, with his own agenda. Mani was the only child at the Ashram and was surrounded by a ton of very crazy and eccentric people. Since the age of 5 or so she could read at an adult level so left on her own most of the time, she spent most of her time with her nose in a book absorbing anything she could get a hold of, and through her we learn a lot about the history of India and it Gods. She was put into the only private school in town a Catholic School called __Holy Wounds__ and there she and the other students encountered very sadistic teachers, who were really cruel. This is the story of the authors 5 years living in an Ashram in in India, (age 7-12) in the town of Ahmednagar run by devotees of Meher Baba, one of the most dynamic spiritual masters of the 20th century. Who had and has many devotees around the world, including Pete Townsend of __the who__, who wrote a Hymn to Baba - __O' Parvardigar__ O' Parvardigar is the common name of a prayer composed by Meher Baba, sometimes called the Master's Prayer or the Universal Prayer. The title, __All the fishes come home to roost__ came from one of the followers miss quoting a saying which should have been about chickens, and to her meaning, that the consequences of everything come home. The truth is known and spoken aloud. Thus the author vowed to one day write her story, and her truth. This book is said to bear comparisons to __Don't let's go to the dogs tonight__ and __Running with scissors__ I own both of those but have not read them yet. Well worth reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Rachel Brown, known as Mani, has written an irreverent, funny, and sad memoir of her growing up India where her mother is a disciple of Meher Baba. Baba claimed he was the reincarnation of Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed; he believed that all human experience reflects God’s plan, and coined the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy.” The family left California and went to India when Mani was seven. Her father never explained his reasons for going until years later when he said that Rachel Brown, known as Mani, has written an irreverent, funny, and sad memoir of her growing up India where her mother is a disciple of Meher Baba. Baba claimed he was the reincarnation of Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed; he believed that all human experience reflects God’s plan, and coined the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy.” The family left California and went to India when Mani was seven. Her father never explained his reasons for going until years later when he said that he went along to keep the family together. Mani was lonely; the only child in the ashram where they lived, and taunted by her fellow students at the Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ the Savior School because she was white, and different. The nuns at the school were strict and punishments ranged from being beaten with a stick to being made to stand in the sun for long periods of time. Mani’s father ultimately left his wife in India and returned to America where Mani, now called Rachel, lived with him in her teen years. She is now a well-adjusted adult who lives in California and writes for TV. No child should have had to endure what she went through, but she recounts events as seen through the eyes of a child, seeming to say, “Am I the only sane person here?”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Selma

    Rachel Manija Brown's memoir of her childhood in an ashram in India, where she was brought by her cult-following parents, is surprisingly humorous and good natured. While acknowledging that her parents are nuts, she conveys their benign qualities as well as their quirks with a wry sense of detachment. That she survived the brutality of bullying in a fifth-rate backwater Catholic school, where the other children habitually pelted her with rocks and where the teachers beat students with rulers--or Rachel Manija Brown's memoir of her childhood in an ashram in India, where she was brought by her cult-following parents, is surprisingly humorous and good natured. While acknowledging that her parents are nuts, she conveys their benign qualities as well as their quirks with a wry sense of detachment. That she survived the brutality of bullying in a fifth-rate backwater Catholic school, where the other children habitually pelted her with rocks and where the teachers beat students with rulers--or worse--for imagined infractions, and emerged from that, as well as from the witnessing of ghastly accidents and street sights that backgrounded life in her experience of India--is a testament to her inner fortitude and resilience. She credits her bizarre upbringing with the formation of her writerly disposition. The main distinctions of this memoir are its balanced acceptance of eccentricity and dysfunction, its breezy prose (a wonderful contrast to, say, the sludge of Dave Eggers' writing), and its cleareyed depiction of reality through the eyes of both the child Rachel and her adult persona.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A catalogue of horrors, told quite wittily. Self-involved parents, brutal Catholic school, certifiable ashram lunatics... RMB's mother chides her at the end for not writing about happier times. Mani replies: "The trouble is that one extreme experience is more memorable than many normal ones... I could see why Mom thought I ought to have written more about baking cookies and less about decapitations. But the decapitations had made more of an impression on me." The book ends with Mani looking at a A catalogue of horrors, told quite wittily. Self-involved parents, brutal Catholic school, certifiable ashram lunatics... RMB's mother chides her at the end for not writing about happier times. Mani replies: "The trouble is that one extreme experience is more memorable than many normal ones... I could see why Mom thought I ought to have written more about baking cookies and less about decapitations. But the decapitations had made more of an impression on me." The book ends with Mani looking at a New Yorker cartoon her father has given her: "A girl with a ponytail and glasses, who bore a remarkable resemblance to me as a teenager, sat ina window seat with a notebook ion her lap. The caption read: "Dear Mom and Dad: Thanks for the happy childhood. You've destroyed any chance I had of becoming a writer." That's why those of us with happy childhoods have to read memoirs like this!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    A fascinating look at life in an ashram in India in the early 80s. The memoirist certainly had an unusual life. I liked how she traced her growing skepticism that a certain guru was actually God. She was realistic about the limitations on her as a seven- to eleven-year-old in terms of denying her parents' deeply held beliefs or rebelling against their idea of what was best for her. Her harrowing experiences at the Catholic school are the worst for being such an unlikely contrast with her parents A fascinating look at life in an ashram in India in the early 80s. The memoirist certainly had an unusual life. I liked how she traced her growing skepticism that a certain guru was actually God. She was realistic about the limitations on her as a seven- to eleven-year-old in terms of denying her parents' deeply held beliefs or rebelling against their idea of what was best for her. Her harrowing experiences at the Catholic school are the worst for being such an unlikely contrast with her parents' ideals and those of the ashram where they lived. In many ways a completely unlikely tale, convincingly told. She lived this life and describes it well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zandra

    I could not put this book down. It was just so hilarious and surreal. Her vivid descriptions put you right there to see the world through her eyes. Much like Rachel, I tested highly at a very young age and that definitely makes you see and process the world differently. You try to intellectualize and over rationalize the strangest things to the mundane while experiencing them as a typical child. It definitely makes your world turn upside down sometimes. Rachel captured this so perfectly.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Walters

    This was one of the most funny and entertaining books I have read in a very long time. Manija (Mani-jay) is one very independent and incredibly intelligent young girl in a crazy life brought on by her parents. She had me hooked from the first page and it was so much fun to experience her life through her writings. I loved this book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I LOVED this book--about an American girl who spends part of her childhood in an ashram in India.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    A friend gave me this saying the main character reminded her of me. After reading the book, I am flattered and can see it a little bit. Mani (pronounced "money") is a practical loner, noting and occasionally pointing out the absurdities of her life. Moved to an ashram in India by her parents, she survives seven or so years of interesting characters, experiences and idea. Mani is likeable and truly a special kid. A friend gave me this saying the main character reminded her of me. After reading the book, I am flattered and can see it a little bit. Mani (pronounced "money") is a practical loner, noting and occasionally pointing out the absurdities of her life. Moved to an ashram in India by her parents, she survives seven or so years of interesting characters, experiences and idea. Mani is likeable and truly a special kid.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick Fagerlund

    Okay, so someone or another, probably [Elizabeth Bear], linked one day to a really incredible series of posts entitled "[A User's Guide to PTSD][ptsd]." I'll wait here while you go read all three (start at the bottom one), because they are a work of art. The author self-deprecatingly bills them as an attempt to raise the general quality of Gundam fanfic, but they're ultimately exactly what the title of the series says: a comprehensive and explicit manual laying out just how it feels to have post Okay, so someone or another, probably [Elizabeth Bear], linked one day to a really incredible series of posts entitled "[A User's Guide to PTSD][ptsd]." I'll wait here while you go read all three (start at the bottom one), because they are a work of art. The author self-deprecatingly bills them as an attempt to raise the general quality of Gundam fanfic, but they're ultimately exactly what the title of the series says: a comprehensive and explicit manual laying out just how it feels to have post-traumatic stress disorder, in compulsively readable prose with a minimum of histrionics. (Wait, are you still reading this? Go, shoo!) References to Gundam pilots notwithstanding, the author is her own source material, and the occasional details and hints about her childhood sounded absolutely nuts. By the end of the series, I was dying to hear the rest of the story, and the Lacey library was perfectly willing to oblige. So anyway, this is the story of Brown's childhood, which was spent in an Indian ashram run by an obscure religion with a distinctly cultish whiff to it. It is mindblowing. It is also quite funny. Also, the fact that she is apparently still on decent terms with her parents is amazing to me--I'm not sure I'd have come out of that with my sense of filial connection intact. Be sure to read [the author's online postscript][postscript] after you're done with the book. [ptsd]: http://rachelmanija.livejournal.com/t... [postscript]: http://www.rachelmanijabrown.com/faq....

  19. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    When Manija Brown (now Rachel Manija Brown) was seven, her parents decided to pack up and move to an ashram in India, there to devote themselves to the teachings of guru Meher Baba. All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is Brown's memoir of her life in India and since. It's both searingly funny and simply searing; though Brown finds humor in much of what happened to her, the pain of her misfit life is always present, and I often found myself going from laughter almost to tears in the space of a few When Manija Brown (now Rachel Manija Brown) was seven, her parents decided to pack up and move to an ashram in India, there to devote themselves to the teachings of guru Meher Baba. All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is Brown's memoir of her life in India and since. It's both searingly funny and simply searing; though Brown finds humor in much of what happened to her, the pain of her misfit life is always present, and I often found myself going from laughter almost to tears in the space of a few pages. The writing is trenchant and observant; the descriptions of India are particularly good, sharply and colorfully conveying the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes Brown experienced. All the Fishes Come Home to Roost is often not an easy read -- the physical and emotional abuse Brown endured was no small thing -- but it's always deeply compelling; I stayed up far too late one night to finish it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Schmenny

    I always enjoy the memoirs of hippies' kids. If you know me, you know why. This one's about a girl whose parents whisk her off to a cult in India. Since the guru is long-dead, there's no predictable molesty guru scenes, which is lovely, but there's a host of misery dished out by assorted adults who fail or mistreat her in an assortment of other ways. Interesting stuff, if mostly unhappy. A bit funny. I like people who can mix up funny and miserable. Questions of cultural clashes, spirituality, c I always enjoy the memoirs of hippies' kids. If you know me, you know why. This one's about a girl whose parents whisk her off to a cult in India. Since the guru is long-dead, there's no predictable molesty guru scenes, which is lovely, but there's a host of misery dished out by assorted adults who fail or mistreat her in an assortment of other ways. Interesting stuff, if mostly unhappy. A bit funny. I like people who can mix up funny and miserable. Questions of cultural clashes, spirituality, coming of age, individual power, and family. Okay, that's not a sentence, but I'm leaving it there anyhow. Nabil, thanks for the loan, Sugar. Don't let me forget to give this and Motion of Light in Water back to you.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Danica Kombol

    I’m a sucker for books based on dysfunctional childhoods, this this does not disappoint. Writing is well/crafted in its descriptions of India and memory details. What’s missing is the insights into her devotee parents thought processes. The mother is clearly baba obsessed but why? Claims are made of childhood abuse but never explored. Nor is the mother-daughter dynamic between author and baba obsessed mother truly explained aside from a few random conversations. I almost wish she’d go back one m I’m a sucker for books based on dysfunctional childhoods, this this does not disappoint. Writing is well/crafted in its descriptions of India and memory details. What’s missing is the insights into her devotee parents thought processes. The mother is clearly baba obsessed but why? Claims are made of childhood abuse but never explored. Nor is the mother-daughter dynamic between author and baba obsessed mother truly explained aside from a few random conversations. I almost wish she’d go back one more time and write another book. She could keep half the chapters but this time bring in the missing piece of “what was the true, gritty, honest emotional thread” underlying this baba fueled adventure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    The girl had it rough. From a young age on, she saw through the inanity of the grownups she was surrounded by, but had little except her intelligence and grit to protect her from the harmful psychological effects of such an environment since her parents self-centeredly indulged themselves and downgraded her protests. She writes about this in a frank and humorous way, but she suffered a great deal and it has taken years for her to compensate for the damage of that exposure...and I'm sure she's no The girl had it rough. From a young age on, she saw through the inanity of the grownups she was surrounded by, but had little except her intelligence and grit to protect her from the harmful psychological effects of such an environment since her parents self-centeredly indulged themselves and downgraded her protests. She writes about this in a frank and humorous way, but she suffered a great deal and it has taken years for her to compensate for the damage of that exposure...and I'm sure she's not out of the woods yet. I give this book three stars because of the persistent underlying theme of innocence trying to cope with mental (and to a lesser degree, physical) suffering. Nevertheless, the book was interesting and had the BEST two concluding paragraphs I have ever read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    ellen

    This was a very interesting memoir. I also had a strange relationship with my parents (some would say) so I could relate to the Rachel's independence. The book was an interesting snapshot of life in India, which I could relate to having lived in developing countries for over 4 years in my life. India is a spiritual center, and the whole idea of spiritual pilgrimages, spiritual tourism, and places that are full of international disciples seems fairly common there. I cannot imagine what it would b This was a very interesting memoir. I also had a strange relationship with my parents (some would say) so I could relate to the Rachel's independence. The book was an interesting snapshot of life in India, which I could relate to having lived in developing countries for over 4 years in my life. India is a spiritual center, and the whole idea of spiritual pilgrimages, spiritual tourism, and places that are full of international disciples seems fairly common there. I cannot imagine what it would be like, but Rachel painted a really colorful picture. At times I wasn't sure I loved Rachel, but it wasn't her fault. She had to endure some really disturbing situations.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    I first heard about this while reading Brown's awesome essay about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which she used examples from her own life, and linked to her book. I was interested just from the stuff she mentioned, but it was the comparisons to Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors that was the clincher.[return][return]I found it really hard to put down. If I hadn't forced myself to do so in order to do other stuff, I probably would have read it all in one sitting. Basically it's a hum I first heard about this while reading Brown's awesome essay about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which she used examples from her own life, and linked to her book. I was interested just from the stuff she mentioned, but it was the comparisons to Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors that was the clincher.[return][return]I found it really hard to put down. If I hadn't forced myself to do so in order to do other stuff, I probably would have read it all in one sitting. Basically it's a humorous account of her (pretty horrible) childhood. I highly recommend it (and Running with Scissors, if you've never read that, either).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Richard Brand

    I do not know how you could write about this kind of rearing any better. I was direct, it was honest sounding, it did not try to make the writer any smarter or better than she was. The description of her life, the schooling, the constant religious indoctrination, the apparent lack of involvement with her parents. It is not an easy story but she tells it with a touch of humor. I especially appreciated her more serious reflections about how people might find the integrity of their convictions wort I do not know how you could write about this kind of rearing any better. I was direct, it was honest sounding, it did not try to make the writer any smarter or better than she was. The description of her life, the schooling, the constant religious indoctrination, the apparent lack of involvement with her parents. It is not an easy story but she tells it with a touch of humor. I especially appreciated her more serious reflections about how people might find the integrity of their convictions worthy. It would be interesting to see what happened if Ms. Brown substituted "Jesus" in every place that Baba was mentioned.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    The memoir of a young girl transported to India to live with her parents in an ashram in the 80s. Not an easy transition. Living as the only child in the ashram and being the only foreigner in a Catholic school (the only place where she could be expected to get an adequate education) puts a lot of burdens on her. However, the book is written from hindsight by a television writer and so her travails come across as often humorous as well as mordant. I liked the book, however, I think that the rete The memoir of a young girl transported to India to live with her parents in an ashram in the 80s. Not an easy transition. Living as the only child in the ashram and being the only foreigner in a Catholic school (the only place where she could be expected to get an adequate education) puts a lot of burdens on her. However, the book is written from hindsight by a television writer and so her travails come across as often humorous as well as mordant. I liked the book, however, I think that the retelling portrays a child who is perhaps a bit more precocious than she may actually have been.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    I read this book in the Dutch translation, which had kept the strange title that was the reason for me to pick it up in the library. I might not have read it if it had not caught my attention that way. And it was quite amazing: the real and horrible youth of an intelligent young girl who is transplanted from the USA to India where he life continues in an ashram filled with rather crazy people and the school she has to attend where all teachers seem to be torturing hypocrites. And still I recogni I read this book in the Dutch translation, which had kept the strange title that was the reason for me to pick it up in the library. I might not have read it if it had not caught my attention that way. And it was quite amazing: the real and horrible youth of an intelligent young girl who is transplanted from the USA to India where he life continues in an ashram filled with rather crazy people and the school she has to attend where all teachers seem to be torturing hypocrites. And still I recognized my own mother in hers.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    This is a hilarious, painful memoir of growing up as an American girl on an ashram in India. When Rachel (then known as Manija, not having renamed herself yet) was seven years old, her parents made the decision to move to India to live on the ashram dedicated to their spiritual leader, Baba. Brown strikes a good balance, allowing the reader to laugh at the sheer bizarreness of her childhood, yet also not disguising the pain and confusion that consumed her young life.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Pretty decent book written by a girl whose parents raiser her on an ashram in India. It's impressive she turned out OK given that her parents pretty much refuse to admit to any of their bad decisions and it's fun to read another view of ashram life (in comparison to Elizabeth Gilbert's who was at a different one). Not earth-shattering but, as books go, pretty decent and a good beach read for the more literary-minded. Pretty decent book written by a girl whose parents raiser her on an ashram in India. It's impressive she turned out OK given that her parents pretty much refuse to admit to any of their bad decisions and it's fun to read another view of ashram life (in comparison to Elizabeth Gilbert's who was at a different one). Not earth-shattering but, as books go, pretty decent and a good beach read for the more literary-minded.

  30. 5 out of 5

    penelopewanders

    A ray which ended with me. I enjoyed this autobiography very much... several laugh out loud moments, and at the same time I was relieved that Rachel came out of it all as well as she ostensibly did. Having spent part of my childhood in that part of the world (but NOT in an ashram), many parts brought back memories. Saddened and surprised at how aggressive the local children were. Baba! What a childhood! but a very good storyteller too.

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