The Selector of Souls

      Shauna Singh Baldwin
The Selector of Souls

The Selector of Souls begins with a scene that is terrifying, harrowing and yet strangely tender: we're in the mid ranges of the Himalayas as a young woman gives birth to her third child with the help of her mother, Damini. The birth brings no joy, just a horrible accounting, and the act that follows--the huge sacrifice made by Damini out of love of her daughter--haunts the novel.

In Shauna Singh Baldwin's enthralling novel, two fascinating, strong-willed women must deal with the relentless logic forced upon them by survival: Damini, a Hindu midwife, and Anu, who flees an abusive marriage for the sanctuary of the Catholic church. When Sister Anu comes to Damini's home village to open a clinic, their paths cross, and each are certain they are doing what's best for women. What do health, justice, education and equality mean for women when India is marching toward prosperity, growth and becoming a nuclear power? If the baby girls and women around them are to survive, Damini and Anu must find creative ways to break with tradition and help this community change from within.

Review

The Selector of Souls is a bold and vivid dramatization of the charged choices shaping women’s lives in 1990s India. Shauna Singh Baldwin has a gift for warm-hearted and incisive storytelling. This is a novel expansive in its vision and defiantly human in its embrace of the contradictions that animate us all.”
—Catherine Bush, author of The Rules of Engagement and Claire’s Head

“From its opening lines, in which a mundane scene of domestic life is slowly transformed into horror, The Selector of Souls catapults the reader into a finely imagined space. Shauna Singh Baldwin writes compellingly of the conventions that curtail and threaten the lives of Indian women. Her polished language and original imagery consistently stir and surprise.”
—Erna Paris, author of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History

“A canvas of rich images, a cast of memorable characters with all of their strengths and flaws, important moral questions, gripping stories intertwined. Shauna Singh Baldwin has the skill to mix these ingredients, add her humanist touch and come up with a superb novel.”
—Frances Itani, author of Deafening and Requiem

The Selector of Souls is a mesmerizing novel, bravely revealing the harsh realities of an entrenched patriarchy bound by the forces of history. Baldwin’s lush details are vivid and luminous, drawing us into the multitude of cultures and religions, the richly textured worlds of India at the end of the last century. Sweeping and evocative, but most of all: illuminating.”
—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

“In this tender twister of a tale, Shauna Singh Baldwin takes us inside a world where women murder or abort their daughters to help us understand how gender-loathing and its attendant horrors can be transformed by sympathy and love.”
—Susan Swan, author of The Wives of Bath and The Western Light

About the Author

SHAUNA SINGH BALDWIN was born in Montreal and grew up in India. The Tiger Claw, her second novel, was a finalist for the Giller Prize in 2004 and is forthcoming as a film. Her first, What the Body Remembers, published in 1999, was longlisted for the Orange Prize and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in the Canada/Caribbean region. It has been translated into 14 languages. She is the author of English Lessons and Other Stories, the collection We Are Not in Pakistan, and co-author of A Foreign Visitor’s Survival Guide to America. Her short stories have won literary awards in the United States, Canada and India. She holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia and an MBA from Marquette University in Milwaukee, where she currently lives with her husband.

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    The Tiger Claw

      Shauna Singh Baldwin
The Tiger Claw

From the author of What the Body Remembers, an extraordinary story of love and espionage, cultural tension and displacement, inspired by the life of Noor Inayat Khan (code name “Madeleine”), who worked against the Occupation after the Nazi invasion of France.

When Noor Khan’s father, a teacher of mystical Sufism, dies, Noor is forced to bow, along with her mother, sister and brother, to her uncle’s religious literalism and ideas on feminine propriety. While at the Sorbonne, Noor falls in love with Armand, a Jewish musician. Though her uncle forbids her to see him, they continue meeting in secret.

When the Germans invade in 1940, Armand persuades Noor to leave him for her own safety. She flees with her family to England, but volunteers to serve in a special intelligence agency. She is trained as a radio operator for the group that, in Churchill’s words, will “set Europe ablaze” with acts of sabotage. She is then sent back to Occupied France. Unwavering courage is what Noor requires for her assignment and her deeply personal mission — to re-unite with Armand. As her talisman, she carries her grandmother’s gift, an heirloom tiger claw encased in gold.

The novel opens in December 1943. Noor has been imprisoned. She begins writing in secret, tracing the events that led to her capture. When Germany surrenders in 1945, her brother Kabir begins his search through the chaos of Europe’s Displaced Persons camps to find her.

In its portrayal of intolerance, The Tiger Claw eerily mirrors our own times, and progresses with moments of great beauty and white-knuckle tension towards a moving and astonishing denouement.

Review

The Tiger Claw is a first-rate spy thriller and also first-rate literature. Set in the 1940s in Occupied Paris with haunting similarities to the world today, this is a novel that reminds us that sometimes only fiction can really tell us the truth…. The story of one woman’s courage in the face of racism, betrayal and hypocrisy on one hand and the veils of war on the other. It is also a love story between a Muslim and a Jew told in a language that resonates with mysticism and romance – yet it is brutally honest in its assessment of motives and ambiguities.”
—The Giller Prize Jury

“Baldwin’s luminous prose captures the reader’s attention. . . . [She] immerses the reader in the atmosphere of the Vichy era, replete with undercurrents of terror and prejudice. . . . Readers, especially those interested in history and politics, will be intrigued by this gripping, richly textured novel penned by a consummate storyteller.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Baldwin has succeeded in crafting yet another indelible story based in fact.”
The Edmonton Journal

The Tiger Claw brilliantly reveals the shifting sands of allegiance in times of war and the duplicity required for survival when all who are operating underground are interdependent but no one can be trusted fully.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

The Tiger Claw is a brilliant novel, a harrowing story of espionage and love, of loyalty and betrayal in the treacherous world of WWII Europe. Shauna Singh Baldwin has an astonishing ability to paint a very large canvas with amazing detail. You are there. ‘Impressive’ hardly even begins to describe it: masterful. I could not put it down. A stunning achievement, but most of all, important.”
—Sandra Gulland

“A deeply felt, richly evocative novel that resurrects and reinvents a remarkable life, The Tiger Claw tells an affecting story of love and loss amidst the turbulence of war and human dislocation. It confirms Shauna Singh Baldwin as a major literary voice that transcends the borders that divide human experience.”
—Shashi Tharoor

The Tiger Claw is a fascinating story of moral complexity, inner conflict and exile, a magnificent portrait of a very courageous woman, Noor Inayat Khan, the legendary French Resistance fighter, whose divided conscience is reflected in the drama of Nazi-occupied France and British-occupied India. That Noor strikes us a modern figure of heroism and doubt is because of the compelling vision of Shauna Singh Baldwin.”
—Marie-Claire Blais

Praise for *What the Body Remembers:
“A stunning first novel. Intensely atmospheric — an artistic triumph.”
Publishers Weekly* (starred review)

“An impressive achievement. . .rich, fascinating, epic. . . An original, extremely readable book that dramatizes the plight of Indian women with great sympathy and love.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“A captivating jewel of a novel by a seasoned and sophisticated writer. . . Beyond being a compelling tale of individuals, What the Body Remembers offers a gimlet-eyed view of a pluralistic society’s disintegration into factionalism and anarchy.”
The Washington Post

From the Inside Flap

From the author of What the Body Remembers, an extraordinary story of love and espionage, cultural tension and displacement, inspired by the life of Noor Inayat Khan (code name "Madeleine"), who worked against the Occupation after the Nazi invasion of France.

When Noor Khan's father, a teacher of mystical Sufism, dies, Noor is forced to bow, along with her mother, sister and brother, to her uncle's religious literalism and ideas on feminine propriety. While at the Sorbonne, Noor falls in love with Armand, a Jewish musician. Though her uncle forbids her to see him, they continue meeting in secret.

When the Germans invade in 1940, Armand persuades Noor to leave him for her own safety. She flees with her family to England, but volunteers to serve in a special intelligence agency. She is trained as a radio operator for the group that, in Churchill's words, will "set Europe ablaze" with acts of sabotage. She is then sent back to Occupied France. Unwavering courage is what Noor requires for her assignment and her deeply personal mission -- to re-unite with Armand. As her talisman, she carries her grandmother's gift, an heirloom tiger claw encased in gold.

The novel opens in December 1943. Noor has been imprisoned. She begins writing in secret, tracing the events that led to her capture. When Germany surrenders in 1945, her brother Kabir begins his search through the chaos of Europe's Displaced Persons camps to find her.

In its portrayal of intolerance, The Tiger Claw eerily mirrors our own times, and progresses with moments of great beauty and white-knuckle tension towards a moving and astonishing denouement.

Excerpt from *The Tiger Claw
December moved in, taking up residence with Noor in her cell, and freezing the radiator.

Cold coiled in the bowl of her pelvis, turning shiver to quake as she lay beneath her blanket on the cot. Above, snow drifted against the glass and bars. Shreds of thoughts, speculations, obsessions ... some glue still held her fragments together.

The flap door clanged down.

"Herr Vogel..."

The rest, in rapid German, was senseless.

Silly hope reared inside; she reined it in.

The guard placed something on the thick, jutting tray, something invisible in the dingy half-light. Soup probably. She didn't care.

She heard a clunk and a small swish.

Yes, she did.*

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    We Are Not in Pakistan

      Shauna Singh Baldwin
We Are Not in Pakistan

Ten years after her stunning debut, Shauna Singh Baldwin returns to Goose Lane with an outstanding new collection of ten stories. Migrating from Central America to the American South, from Metro Toronto to the Ukraine, this book features an unforgettable cast of characters. In the title story, 16-year-old Megan hates her Pakistani grandmother — until Grandma disappears. In the enchanting magical realism of "Naina," an Indo-Canadian woman is pregnant with a baby girl who refuses to be born. "The View from the Mountain" introduces Wilson Gonzales, who makes friends with his new American boss, the aptly named Ted Grand. But following 9/11, Ted's suspicions cloud his judgment and threaten his friendship with Wilson. Each containing an entire world, these stories are marked by indelible images and unforgettable turns of phrase — hallmarks of Baldwin's fictional world.

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    English Lessons and Other Stories

      Shauna Singh Baldwin
English Lessons and Other Stories

The new reader's guide edition of Shauna Singh Baldwin's literary debut features the fifteen stories from the original collection, an interview with the author, an original afterword, and her suggested reading list. When Shauna Singh Baldwin's debut collection was first published in 1996, it took readers by storm. Reviewers discovered a new voice. Dramatizing the lives of Indian women from 1919 to the present, from India to North America, Shauna Singh Baldwin travels from the intimate sphere of family to the wasteland of office and university. A multiple award winning writer, Shauna Singh Baldwin has written several books and her fiction and poems are widely published in literary magazines. Literary Fiction, India, Women Fiction, Canadian Author.
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