Author: Anne Cherian
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary fiction
I am a cover page person. I do judge a book by its cover. Though in this case, I was not drawn by its cover page, rather I picked this book on a whim, without any expectations. And this book sure took me by surprise. This immigrant fiction is about a group of four friends, complete with their imperfections, the hidden truths, their insecurities and everyday real issues about family.
Frances, Jay, Lali and Vikram, all Indian immigrants, meet at UCLA. The author takes time to dwell into the lives, present and past, of each of these characters. I was instantly drawn to their stories.
Frances and Jay (or Jayant Bakshi) are college sweethearts who married right after finishing college. They have three children – Mandy, Lily and Sam. Frances is a real estate agent, while Jay works in the middle management for a computer company. The couple, who considered themselves the best during college, is struggling to provide a decent lifestyle to their family while also trying to understand the dramatic change in their first born, typical of teenage years.
Vikram, the prodigious son of a farmer, starts his own computer company after completing his course at UCLA, and is a successful entrepreneur. Though successful in terms of money, he is battling his own childhood issues, imposing his aspirations on his MIT graduate son Nikhil. He is married to Priya; their marriage arranged by their parents.
Lali married Jonathon, a cardiologist and has a son Aaron. The perfect harmony in Lali’s marriage is troubled by Jonathan’s sudden interest in his religion. She finds herself distanced from her husband due to his new-found passion. As is beautifully put in the narrative “… he had parted the curtains to his own religion, and she found herself offstage.” This growing distance momentarily clouds her judgement and she starts corresponding with an ex from college. She is also peeved about her son’s decision to take a break from his course at Harvard.
The individual stories lead up to the party that Vikram is throwing to celebrate his son Nikhil’s graduation from MIT. All of them are going to meet after 25 years, so they are apprehensive about their relative success or failure in their personal and professional lives while also extremely curious to know about each other.
For most of the book, I loved the way the author has let the characters unfold for her readers. I found the writing rich and nuanced, while the narrative was engaging.
The ending seemed a bit hurried though. There were quite a few unanswered questions and loose ends.
If you have not read the book, skip this part and explore for yourself because I don’t want to cloud your judgement; but if you have read the book, read on to see if your thoughts echo in mine. A few questions which came to my mind at the end: