Review by Maxine Topley

Islands Unto Ourselves is an adeptly written novel which speaks to the quiet, unassuming heroism of all immigrants who come to Canada.


Gomathy Puri breathes life into her characters and expertly illuminates the process of acculturation.  We are immediately drawn into the world of the newly arrived Kamala at the airport in Winnipeg as she copes with the sights and sounds of a new life with entirely different sets of mores, social cues and customs.  Juxtaposition is Kamala a few years later who has become a confident, well-adjusted woman.

Through Kamala’s brooding and introspective nature we journey through the process of adapting to her life in Canada, coming to terms with the fact that she belongs to neither her land of birth nor her adopted country. Poignant childhood memories are skillfully woven throughout the novel highlighting the vast diversity of Indian and Canadian culture.

Kamala’s stoicism and strength help her navigate through the gender and racial issues facing immigrants in their career.  Through her tenacity she forges a strong career only to pay dearly for it with the quiet disintegration of her marriage.

Every aspect of the book is a testament to the human condition, the mastery of our fears and the depth of strength that lies within all of us.  It is simultaneously sad and hopeful, threatening and courageous, depressing and joyful.  Herein lays the complexity of living captured so beautifully in Islands Unto Ourselves.

Maxine Topley,

Vancouver, B.C.

Gomathy Puri’s ‘Islands Unto Ourselves’ – book review by Alka Kumar


Gomathy Puri’s novel Islands Unto Ourselves, published in 2012, is set in Winnipeg of the 1970s and 80s. While a work of fiction need not be a true or real representation of the time and place it claims to be set in, the writer announces in a clear and robust voice that this indeed is Winnipeg. The constant reminders about chronology also seem to insist that the timeline too must be read in its fairly specific location in historical time. Hence at some level while I read the novel I felt myself transported to the city as it would have been nearly twenty five years ago while living simultaneously in the here and now. This experience of inadvertently travelling between two time zones adds an interesting third dimension to themes, issues and characters, including the feel of the city which often becomes its own hovering persona, one of the several other characters that live between the covers of this novel. Nearly every chapter begins with a description of the changing seasons, `cold northerly gusts of wind’ in the spring turning to `crisp March mornings,’ `ridges of frozen ice’ lining the sidewalks. Often times in the novel there is a Wordsworthian epiphany, the moods of the protagonists being mirrored in the turn of phrase used to describe external reality.

There are many stories here, interwoven and criss-crossing, and many characters cross each other’s paths as they go about their business. They are stories of Kamala and Rakesh, Rekha and Gopal, Ben, others too, of immigrant experience and of negotiating old identities in new landscapes, of changing political scenarios.  All themes that typically haunt diaspora writing proliferate this space. The novel explores primarily the theme of  bi-cultural identities and people living simultaneously in two worlds.

In fact if the title of the novel and the name of the writer do not lead you to make any assumptions take a look at the cover and no room for doubt remains. A faceless woman, half a woman really as only the left half of her body is visible, in a bandini sari with beautiful bangles adorning a slender wrist, the river up close as backdrop and Fall colors in the distance…, it is an affirmative cover, rich with assertion of East Indian identity. Incidentally, it is in coming to Winnipeg five years ago that I first heard this term. In Toronto I had believed myself to be South Asian. In the novel though, identity certainly goes beyond mere naming, getting under the skin of some difficult questions.

Perhaps book covers should be less stereotypical, maybe less revealing in a glance of what best lies hidden inside?  Yes there is marital abuse in this novel, gross domestic violence, as such a cover may slyly imply. There are parenting challenges too, for parents raising young families in a country newly adopted, where the social and cultural matrix is quite different from the country of origin, now left behind. Anybody who knows `real people’ in the East Indian community in Winnipeg, or any other city in Canada for that matter, will know that these in the novel are real people too. While the writing harks back to a way of telling the story with simplicity and grace, in ways gentle and moving, the everyday lives of Rekha and Gopal, Kamala and Rakesh come alive in their nuanced complexity. The stories do get to the heart of the matter unselfconsciously and with ease, albeit too diligently sometimes. They are evocative of the essence of fumbling and evolving relationships, the angst of displacement, loss and love, belonging, and identity. They go beyond really, using the specific and local perspective through grounding in immigrant identity, to make the leap that reveals common humanity wherein we are all indeed `islands unto ourselves.’

The novel is an easy read, and a poignant one. I used to read much writing in this genre once upon a time and it makes me want to go back and explore some more.

Gomathy Puri, Islands Unto Ourselves. Larkuma: Canada, 2012

Reviewed by Alka Kumar

Alka Kumar is an Associate Professor in English at the University of Delhi in India. She currently lives in Winnipeg and is doing her PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at Arthur V Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at University of Manitoba. 

Islands Unto Ourselves launching June 28, 2013.


Book Launch: Novel ‘Islands Unto Ourselves’ by Gomathy Puri – June 22, 2013



The event will be hosted by
New Westminster Arts Council
Saturday, June 22, 2013
1 – 4 pm

At the Arts Council Building (Centennial Lodge)
Queens Park, New Westminster


Chair : Valerie B-Taylor
President of New West Writers, Founder/Facilitator Ren Books Critique group, Advisor Surrey Muse
Launch : Ashok Bhargava
President of Writers International Network Canada, Distinguished Poet & Author
Speaker Fauzia Rafique
Novelist and Poet
Speaker : Eileen Kernaghan
Poet & Author, 3-time winner of Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Award, plus more.
Reading : Gomathy Puri
Author of ‘Islands Unto Ourselves’


Islands Unto Ourselves
By Gomathy Puri
ISBN: 978-0-980-8881-4-0
Larkuma, Winnepeg 2012
Price: $20.95


Refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP by June 15th.

Entrances to Park from McBride Ave and 1st Ave. at 3rd St, New West. Directions to the building are posted in the park. 

‘Island Unto Ourselves’ to be launched July 15

Please Note:

The book launch below has been postponed to Autumn 2012 because of unavoidable circumstances. Please continue to visit Gomathy’s web page for updates. Thank you for your support. 


You are cordially invited to the book launch
of my first novel
‘Islands Unto Ourselves’

Download printable poster

The event will be hosted by
New Westminster Arts Council
Date: Sunday July 15th, 2012
1 – 4.00 p.m.
Venue: Arts Council Building (Centennial Lodge)
Queens Park, New Westminster
Chair: Valerie B-Taylor
President, New West Writers
Book Launch: Ashok Bhargava
President, Writers International Network, distinguished poet and author
Fauzia Rafique
award winning novelist and poet
Eileen Kernaghan
poet and author, three-time winner of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award as well as numerous other awards.
Reading: Gomathy Puri
Author of ‘Islands Unto Ourselves’

Following the programme, refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP by July 10th.

Entrances to Park from McBride Ave and 1st Ave. at 3rd St, New West. Directions to the building are posted in the park.