Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: The Sari Shop Widow

  • Title: The Sari Shop Widow
  • Author: Shobhan Bantwal
  • ISBN: 9780758232021
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • Genre: Multicultural, Romance

Review: Here is review no. 4 (I think, I’m losing count now) for the South Asian reading challenge. This is my third Shobhan Bantwal book, though the first one I’m reading in 2011. The other two I read were the “The Dowry Bride” and “The Forbidden Daughter”. From the titles of the books, one can perceive an obvious attempt to sell an ‘exotic’ India. These titles offer a vicarious viewing of quaint and exotic Indian culture, where things like dowry and arranged marriages still exist, indeed, thrive. I know that a lot of Americans are fascinated by the idea of arranged marriages (Omygod, really? And you never saw him before the wedding? Wow!), dowry, caste system etc. I do think that a lot of the Indian-American genre caters to this curiosity. I don’t mean to disparage the same, if I wrote a book I’d probably do the same. But it’s there nonetheless.

A lot of stuff in this genre therefore has in it various descriptions of Indian rites and rituals, Indian cultural norms, certain traditional ways of living and thinking. So does the Sari Shop Widow. It is quite an entertainingly written book, call it an Indian American romance with a dose of desi. It is a quick and fun read, with the mandatory happy ending. Also, unlike a lot of the more serious US-desi novels, this does not have any pretensions to depth or profundity. In the large number of US-desi books I’ve read, I’ve seen that a lot of them have undertones of melancholia or imminent despair. Some do tend to be heavy reading! This one is a fun romance novel, nothing more, nothing less. Of course, a desi romance novel. The heart of the book is the same eternal tale of the financially burdened damsel in distress being rescued by super rich knight in shining armor.

Our heroine is a thirty-seven year old widow, Anjali, born and raised in the US. After her husband’s untimely death, she moves back with her parents, and renovates their tired sari shop into a hep sari cum jewelry boutique. After a few years, due to financial mismanagement, the shop is facing severe problems. So enter rich uncle from Gujarat and his even richer young and dashing business partner from London. Our half-desi, half-gora hero. They all get together to reincarnate the shop as a super-fab shopping destination, with boutique+ fusion eatery+ jewelry shop+ beauty salon. It works great and in the process the hero and heroine fall in love. There are the obligatory problems at the end- his ex, her parents, etc. But love and faith conquers all and everybody lives happily ever after!

Altogether, the book is the equivalent of a desi masala movie set in the US. Light, entertaining, quick, good timepass. The perfect combination of Indian culture, pujas, faith, cultural divides, and fairy tales of love and romance and angels coming to the rescue. In fact, a lot like Kal ho na ho!

(Image source: http://www.shobhanbantwal.com/mediaKit.shtml)

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