Dani Shapiro, "The Six Poisons"

Estranged stepsisters from New York reunite unexpectedly on a yoga retreat in India.

(from One Story, #69)

Emma is on her third chaturanga dandasana of the morning, hovering in push-up position an inch off the floor, when Guruji and Sanjiv enter the shala.

From that first sentence I knew this story was gonna be a little problem. It’s not all those unfamiliar yoga words, I can either pick up the meaning, or the jist, from context, or look them up. It’s the matter-of-fact pride of them. Either this story or its characters were going to be annoying about yoga. Both possibilities proved true, with the characters being far more ridiculous, and I can live with that. These rich, pretentious, presumably white Americans coveting their boutique Eastern hobby aren’t played for comedy, not exactly, but they’re laid out there shamelessly for the reader to judge as she/he sees fit. I choose to laugh a little, but only because these are characters. Real people, of course, are welcome believe whatever they like without me mocking them. Which is not to say I felt only scorn for these characters. Emma and Rebecca were real enough, with real complications and weaknesses and I felt for them. Particularly Emma, the accidentally more lucky and more privileged of the two who was made to feel like the bad guy in important matters thanks to circumstance. In that, Dani Shapiro has created a couple excellent characters. So I couldn’t stay annoyed for long.
Here‘s the HTML of a PDF of a chaturanga of the story.
Here‘s the One Story interview with Shapiro that I don’t think I’m going to read, because this story’s been in my head for days already and enough is enough.

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