Blue-Skinned Gods is a novel about belief and growing up, as a boy treated as a god looks to the reality of the world. Living in an ashram in India, Kalki was born blue, and his father controls his life, leading towards the trials that will prove him an avatar of Vishnu. However, as he grows up, Kalki begins to realise that his father is keeping secrets from him, and when he finally discovers the truth about his life, it is time to discover who he really is.
The narrative is told through Kalki looking back, with most of the story focused on him growing up, and it gives a very vivid picture of someone treated as a childgod and having to deal with the fact that might all be a lie. The later part of the book, set in America, has a faster pace, with the ending more of a fresh start than an ending, and Kalki as the narrator does give some earlier hints about what he does later on. In this way, it is very much a coming of age type story, though quite different to many of them because it is focused around ideas of belief as well as self, and how to handle realising you cannot actually heal people despite being told you can.
There’s a lot about sexuality and gender woven into the story, mostly as subplots and explorations of fluidity and self, and it’s especially interesting to see how Kalki relates gender and sexuality to Hindu stories, using stories as a source of acceptance both of himself and others. In general, the depiction of someone’s beliefs being challenged in various ways, and how people adapt to that, is a key part of the book, especially relating it to storytelling. Whether it’s the lies used to present someone as a god or the stories we tell to make sense of things, stories and fiction run throughout the narrative.
I found this an engrossing book that perhaps could’ve gone on a little longer so the later part didn’t feel to get a lot less time than the earlier part, though the whirlwind sense of the ending does fit with Kalki’s experiences.