South India. Early 1940s. Sita, an illiterate girl, is given as a child bride to a boy with a secret that threatens to bring shame upon his family. Finding herself in a marriage without intimacy, she struggles to transcend her circumstances. She learnes to read and weave, finding joy and solace at her loom, and release in a brief, forbidden relationship.
Yet, alongside her fame as a weaver of tapestries, Sita's anger and frustration grow as she feels thwarted within the confines of her family life. Then a roll of events, in which she participates, ends with grave tragedy and a complete unraveling of her spirit.
But when her brother invites her to America to care for his motherless children, fraught with their own conflicts of identity and culture, Sita hopes for a new chance at life. Years later, approaching death in old age, she asks herself, "What has my life been worth? What lessons can be drawn from it?"
Spanning two generations and two cultures, this deeply affecting story, rich in character and incident, peers through those veils that separate one from another and blind us to each other's wonder and human plight.
"Like her protagonist, Sita, the author weaves a fascinating tapestry of life's labor won and lost, which is at once poignant, ornate, and horrifying. A mesmerizing debut work…" —Derek Bose, author of Bollywood Unplugged and Kishore Kumar: Method in Madness
[Alexander] has painted the unnervingly beautiful kind of picture that you can’t stop staring at... Full of a fascinating cast of characters (each of whom is as interesting, complex, and multi-faceted as the next), [Alexander] skillfully weaves their lives together just as deftly as young Sita creates intricate designs at her loom... there is a riveting story here. Alexander has proven her merit as a master of plot... It’s the most wonderful kind of storytelling there is… — The Valley Social, LA, December 2005
The clash of cultures and identities between the first and second-generation Indians in America is poignantly portrayed... a saga of hardship, betrayal, survival, spirit and enduranc... a good read. —The Sunday Tribune, New Delhi, August 2005
Only the Eyes are Mine is a book about a willful woman struggling to define herself in her own eyes — through her art, her relationships and in the end as a peacemaker within her surrogate family. At a secondary level, it is also the age old story of striking a fine balance between roots and wings that all older folks must carefully weigh when it comes to their children's lives. —Accidental Blogger, March 2007
DesiJournal: Usha Alexander has an unusual story and tells it with grace and an impressive economy of words. She tells two very different yet interconnected stories and rarely if ever does the pace of either slacken.... Overall, a refreshing and enjoyable read. —DesiJournal, June 2006
A suspenseful narrative weaves the stories and secrets of two generations into one seamless drama... thoughtful descriptions, vivid imagery and a perfectly orchestrated, streamlined plot... the characters are wholly accessible... a worthy literary journey. —Kirkus Discoveries, November 2005
(This review contains major plot spoilers): There is a lot to say about Indians moving to America and much of it has already been said. But Usha Alexander’s Only the Eyes Are Mine says it in a way that makes it seem as if it has never been said before... You find in this novel a certain nudging of a sensibility, which is rarely done with any kind of subtlety in contemporary Indian English fiction. —Daily News & Analysis, Mumbi, November 2005
With her intriguing characters, Alexander tackles many complex subjects.... With attention to detail and writing grounded in sensations, Alexander leads the reader on a completely surprising journey, one which satisﬁes and fulﬁlls…. —Monique Maria Schmidt, author of Last Moon Dancing, Peace Corps Writers, June 2007
Usha Alexander’s first novel makes you wonder in anticipation, whether she’s tucked away in some far end of the world typing away furiously, creating her second work, so you will be able to lay eyes on it very soon! —The Deccan Herald, January 2006
All about self-discovery and battling inner turmoil, this one is for those into rural India and women-oriented fiction. —Savvy, October 2005
.... a lyrical, engaging mix of modern immigrant life and memories of the way it was... An engrossing debut drama. —Rebecca’s Reads, October 2005; 2nd place Rebecca’s Reads Best Fiction of 2005