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At 45, Akhila awakes one day with a “fight-or-flight” notion. So she boards a train’s ladies coupe (a segregated, second-class compartment found on most overnight Indian trains until 1998) and journeys from Bangalore to Kanyakumari. After her father’s death many years ago, she became the head of her family’s household. Breadwinner and martyr, she has sacrificed her desires to fulfill her family’s wants and needs. A question has long weighed on her mind: Can a woman live without a man and be happy? The women Akhila meets on the train car respond with their life experiences. Nair’s novel is feminist, but it is much more than that as Nair sensitively explores the intimate feelings of her women characters not only in vivid descriptions of their Indian lives, but also in the pleasure they take in something as simple as enjoying a forbidden egg. Nair is a powerful writer, who through this tender story shows great understanding and compassion for all women and for the choices and regrets they cannot avoid. Janet St. John