Big Lift That Mostly Hits. This is going to be a very different book for most American/ Western readers, as it is essentially an “Annie” tale from a century ago or so in the US, but in modern India. As an American currently charged with “leading” a pair of teams of Indian developers, this was particularly eye opening to me to see just what still can happen over there. (And admittedly, there are quite a few parallels re: Eminent Domain in the US right this second.)
Between Rakhi’s struggles as an orphan essentially growing up on the streets before being abandoned in an orphanage to the slums she lives in to the (Indian) “White Knight” that “saves” her – yet expects slavish devotion because of it, Rakhi’s tale has quite a bit in and of itself. Then the back third really gets into a discussion-without-saying-the-words of urban redevelopment and the havoc it can wreak on those “least” able to handle havoc. And of course “least” has to be in quotes in the prior sentence because the tale through this section actually does a great job of showing just how resilient those people are – and how fragile those that think themselves resilient can be.
Overall a strong book that could have used a touch better editing – the flashbacks to Rakhi’s childhood and back to the current timeline were a bit jarring – but that certainly has more depth than is readily apparent to a casual reader. Very much recommended.
This review of Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel was originally written on May 8, 2022.
Blatant Racism Deeply Mars Otherwise Universal Story. This is, without a shred of a doubt, the most racist book I’ve seen published this Millenium, at minimum – and to think that the normally *very* solid Lake Union Publishing allowed it under their banner is very discouraging, indeed. While I would never say a book should not be published at all, this is one that no major company – particularly one so large as Amazon – that claims to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equity should ever stand behind. White / America is EVIL according to Shah, and everything wrong in Preeti’s life is because she had to try to fit in with “White America”. Bullcrap. You take the commentary about everything White and/ or American being so evil out of this tale and look at just the remaining elements of struggling to fit in, to find oneself despite parental desires, to have your parents accept you as an adult… and you’ve got a universal tale that applies no matter the race. *Everyone* goes through these struggles, even in cultures where it appears different. But no, Shah here had to go the racist route and destroy what would have otherwise been a solid, maybe even transcendental, work. While some might think I’m being a bit generous here with 3* based on this write-up, the univeral elements here were done quite well while examining their particulars within Indian culture, particularly looking at both the Indian Diaspora and Indians who never leave the subcontinent – nor want to. And that is where I am confident in still allowing it the three, despite such blatant and rampant racism. Recommended, begrudgingly.
This review of The Taste Of Ginger by Mansi Shah was originally written on December 29, 2021.
Interesting Romance In (Arguably) Underserved Setting. Maybe there are more gay romances set in India written in Hindi and/ or marketed to Indian audiences. This American that doesn’t know any human languages other than English can’t say. But *in my experience* as someone for whom this was Book 189 on the year and who has read over 600 books since Jan 1, 2019 alone… this was unique in setting and primary characters.
Further, as someone in tech (who actually manages – and thus interacts near-daily with – teams of Indian nationals), the workload described here sounds realistic. (For better or for worse. My guys are *awesome*, but they *do* tend to work quite a bit.) The interfering family dynamics are something Nicola Marsh has written of fairly often in her straight romances involving the Indian diaspora (such as July 2021’s The Man Ban), and the struggles of coming out vs submitting to familial and societal expectations are well known and told quite often in American literature and culture at minimum. Hell, even in the US gay sex was officially illegal even this Millennium!
All of this to say, as a romance, I think this book actually works in showing a (mostly) seemingly realistic view while still falling into the standard rules of the genre. Yes, there is a fair amount of sex, on screen though not erotica level explicit. Yes, there is a happily ever after. And yes, there is a fair amount of angst getting there, culminating in a massive fight that splits the couple up before finally coming together – fairly standard stuff for the genre, and yet filled with details specific to its setting. While I don’t know if the Indian law that plays a fair role in the background of the story was ever actually overturned and I have no idea when this fight was going on, it doesn’t play enough of a role to detract from the story not knowing when this was – though those that *are* more familiar with that particular fight may be able to identify a bit more with the book just from seeing what was happening in their own lives at that time. While I’m not sure that I personally would classify this book as romantic *comedy*, there were a few funny moments and it could well be that there is more humor to be found here for those more familiar with Indian culture.
Overall a strong and interesting book, and very much recommended.
This review of The Other Man by Farhad J Dadyburjor was originally written on September 8, 2021.