Sindu, S.J. Blue-Skinned Gods. Soho Press. 2021. $26.00. 336 p. HC. 9781641292429.
Kalki Sami is blue inside and out – see his gums? How can you even think to doubt that he is the tenth human reincarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god who is the protector of the universe, destined to heal the sick and restore the balance between good and evil? Sure, his younger cousin doubts it sometimes, and occasionally his healing prayers are administered along with medicine, but why else would people flock to him to seek peace, healing, and solace?
Sindu’s novel is the exploration of doubt by a deity, and also an examination of what we owe to the families who raise us. Kalki’s life is not only defined by his role as a god, but also as a son: to a father who seeks to spread his fame and a mother who hopes for his happiness while unable to find her own. Kalki also has to contend with the additional weight of the expectations and judgements of his community around the ashram, including journalists curious about his legitimacy, foreigners sure of his mortality, and friends unsure how to distinguish between the god and the person.
As Kalki begins to explore his own doubt, he is forced to reckon not only with the affect he has had on others, but how he in turn has been affected by those he trusts. In whom do we put our faith? What are the consequences of belief? Of doubt? Of influence? These are among the questions asked in this novel, which follows Kalki Sami from his childhood in India to adulthood in New York City. Many of the answers, Sindu hints, can be found in the way that we treat each other. Human connection, and its absence, end up being the greatest determinants in Kalki’s journey; a chain of severed relationships followed by an unexpected reunion that changes the course of his life.
Blue-Skinned Gods is a great read for those who look for great character development, enjoy familial conflict, and won’t mind wrestling with some of humanity’s grittier issues.
Nadia M Orozco-Sahi, MLIS