This story is included in Mukherjee’s collection Darkness and in The Best American Short Stories, 1985, edited by Gail Godwin and Shannon Ravennel.
“Angela” is not a happily ending story of a refugee successfully finding life and liberty, and pursuing happiness, in the United States. Rather, it is a subtle psychological analysis of a survivor, of how survival can entail feelings of guilt and obligation, and of how survivors can be exploited by their rescuers.
The story begins with Angela, a teenage refugee from Bangladesh, at the bedside of her adoptive sister Delia Brandon in Van Buren County Hospital, Iowa. Delia is comatose after an automobile crash, one which Angela survived with hardly a scratch. Naturally, Angela feels guilty that she, not Delia, has survived the accident unscathed—Delia was the one who had instigated Angela’s adoption by the Brandons. Besides, Sister Stella at the orphanage had taught Angela a Christian account of salvation, as if it were some institution of savings and loans: “The Lord saved you. Now it’s your turn to do him credit.”
Indeed, Angela’s list of indebtedness to the Almighty for letting her survive is lengthy: Surviving the death of both parents at the age of six, she also survived the political upheaval of Bangladesh, racing through “leechy paddy-fields” to avoid “the rapes, the dogs chewing dead bodies, the soldiers.” The only scars she retains are those that occurred when her nipples had been sliced off. Afterward, Angela had found refuge in a Catholic orphanage, and eventually she was adopted by the Brandons, a farming family in Iowa,...
(The entire section is 678 words.)