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In the Land of No Right Angles    by Daphne Beal order for
In the Land of No Right Angles
by Daphne Beal
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Daphne Beal's In the Land of No Right Angles looks at two lives that intersect, and in some aspects parallel each other. There's twenty-year-old American Alex, a student from Des Moines who spends a year backpacking and taking photographs in Nepal. And there's low caste Nepali villager Maya. At the request of another friend - smart, unconventional Will, 'the Casanova of Kathmandu' - Alex helps Maya leave her 'remote, hardscrabble' village of Jankat and move to the capital, after which their lives are intertwined for many years.

Maya calls Alex sathi (friend) and Alex feels responsible for her, believing that they have both been manipulated by thirty-something Will. Alex herself has an on-again-off-again relationship with an older man, filmmaker Nick, her mentor in photography. In Kathmandu, Alex and Maya both stay with Will (Maya sharing his bedroom) and Alex muses that 'this country girl in the big city, overwrought with her past, with all it hadn't given her, was not so very different from me.' Maya's life goes steadily downhill after the job Will had found for her does not work out and Alex agonizes over her own responsibility for what ensues.

Years later, after Alex has returned to the States and established a career in photojournalism, she returns to Kathmandu to investigate 'girls who are being tricked and taken to India' for a life in prostitution. She reconnects with Maya, now living on her own and surviving via a risky lifestyle, saying that 'bad work is the only kind that makes any money.' After they disconnect again, the next news Alex has of Maya is that she's been seen in Bombay, 'a city without a conscience'. Alex flies to India, hoping to rescue her friend.

Daphne Beal's In the Land of No Right Angles is an intriguing read, about how much life choices are constrained by where we are born, and about the unintended consequences of meddling in the lives of others, particularly those from different cultures than our own.

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