The Circle of Karma
by Kunzang Choden
Having had the good fortune of traveling to Bhutan on a hiking trip and falling in love with the country, I was thrilled to find this novel, which was published in 2005. We follow the main character, Tsomo, through many emotions and difficulties. Her journey through her life also takes her on a journey from her home and across Bhutan, then finally into India. Throughout the book are many excellent descriptions of daily life and ceremony in Bhutan. This is a sad book yet written with grace and simplicity. Choden has also written a book of short stories and another of folk tales of Bhutan. Anyone contemplating a trip to Bhutan would find this book a valuable companion.
“The Circle of Karma is a milestone in South Asian literature. … What makes it work is Choden’s gift for evocation, both of place and of experience. Her descriptions of the rugged spiritual terrain Tsomo covers in her quest for peace and her moments of ecstasy reminded me of other great religious works, such as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.” Ann Morgan, A Year of Reading Round the World blog
“Tsomo’s house is massive. It is the biggest house in the village, an imposing structure made of rammed earth walls and wood. It has three stories. The ground floor, made entirely of rammed earth, has only tiny slits for windows so it is always dark inside. The animals were kept here and the people lived on the first and second floors. In the stillness of the night Tsomo could hear the ruminating cows. Sometimes she would wake suddenly with the noise of a thud as one of the animals butted another. Even now, whenever she wakes up in the night she immediately thinks that she is in her old house and waits to hear the cows.” The Circle of Karma, Penguin Books, 2005 edition.