Mythical, mystical — and impossible to put down, The Conch Bearer is literary fiction of the highest order. Action, adventure and magic combine in this compelling quest fantasy that whisks readers to a far away land and to a reading experience they won’t soon forget. The Conch Bearer is a feast for the senses with a multitude of colors, smells, sounds, and textures. It’s a feast of the emotions as readers feel fear, hope, joy, trepidation, sadness, and wonder — right along with the main characters. And it’s a feast for adventure-lovers – a fast paced story that races across contemporary India to a dramatic climax in the Himalayas.
The story opens in a poor section of Kolkata, where 12-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell imbued with mystical powers. Anand’s task is to return the shell to its rightful home high in the mountains. Will he succeed? Accompanied by a mysterious stranger and a resourceful street urchin, Anand will encounter good and evil – both in himself and in those around him.
Grades 4-7. "Anand's compassionate gesture of sharing his tea with an old man in a Calcutta market leads to radical changes in the 12-year-old's life. The stranger is a member of the Brotherhood of Healers and invites the boy to join him on a dangerous journey to return a magical conch shell to its proper home in the far-off Himalayas. Along with Nisha, a sweeper-girl who insists on joining them, Anand and Abhaydatta travel to the mountains pursued by the evil Surabhanu, a power-hungry ex-member of the brotherhood. Anand struggles in his own mind, doubting Abhaydatta's motives and the existence of magic, jealous of Nisha's comfortable relationship with the old man, and occasionally succumbing to Surabhanu's tempting illusions. When he finally reaches the Silver Valley, more challenges await him before he can enter. In the end, he faces the most difficult choice of all-to stay in the world of magic he had always dreamed of or return to his family. This quest adventure has an exotic flavor: the journey from a crowded Indian city through rural villages and the high mountains, a magical background from traditional Indian tales, and deliciously detailed description of Indian foods. Honesty, loyalty, and compassion are the virtues demanded by the Healers; Anand's actions show that he has all three. Readers can sympathize with his struggles and long for his success. This traditional story in fresh new clothing should appeal to middle graders." --Library Journal
Grades 5-8. "In modern-day India, a boy named Anand perseveres in difficult circumstances. His father is gone, his sister has had a breakdown, and he and his mother struggle to keep a shack's roof over their heads. Anand is kind to an old man, Abhaydatta, a healer who is charged with bringing home an irreplaceable conch shell, stolen from his brotherhood. What follows is a classic quest story in which Anand and feisty, orphaned Nisha eventually continue the quest for the shell on their own. Faced with all the conventions of the genre, they undergo various trials, and Anand makes choices that change his life. With so many fantasies being published, what's special about this one? It's the unique setting, along with the elegance of Divakaruni's writing. The slums of "Kolkata" are so richly created that readers can almost smell them, and the pure beauty of Anand's destination is a shimmering Shangri-La come to life. The characterizations have the same lucidity, real to the core, yet cloaked in magic. This speaks directly to children, in a very enticing voice." --Booklist"This book is a real page-turner...you'll stay up late to finish it."--Chicago Tribune
"Young readers can only hope for more from this master storyteller."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The action is exciting, and the Indian setting makes this story new and different."--Washington Post
"Divakaruni [is] a gifted storyteller....Though [she] beguiles us with the sights and sounds of an exotic place, what she really does is make us feel at home."--Los Angeles Times
From AudioFile" When we first meet 12-year-old Anand, he is carrying an armload of dishes through a crowded tea stall of Kolkata, India. His sister is sick, and his mother depends on the little he brings home. But he's a gentle boy, not hardened by this environment, kind to others, and, most of all, he believes in the magic of dreams. That is why those who keep the conch come to him for help. Somehow whorled into this conch are great powers, and it must be returned. Reader Alan Cumming's voice echoes with this mysterious energy and the noisy streets of India. It has that delicate hint of the Indian English dialect that is at once so precise and so distant, in a story that suggests both the magic of Harry Potter and the grit of Dickens's OLIVER TWIST. Both story and reader are pungent with the spiced tea and the spiked lightning of Anand's fantasy, if it is fantasy."