(Buy it HERE.)
This book is easily my second favorite read of the year so far after Girl, Woman, Other. It’s funny, touching, warm-hearted, and surprisingly deep. It’s also ferociously well-written. (One chapter made me close the book, say WOW, & sit for a while with the words.) I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Satyal before–I’ll be reading as much of his other work as I can get my hands on. ⠀
The book follows a brief period in the lives of a handful of Indian-Americans in Cleveland. All of them wink & smile up at you from the pages, beckoning you into their intertwined lives. There’s empty-nester Ranjana (pronounced RUN-juh-nuh), a budding romance writer, and her fussy, tedious husband Mohan. After immigrating to the US together in the 90s, the two of them are trying to rediscover life after raising their son, Princeton student Prashant. There’s sad, lonely Harit and his senile mother Parvati, both consumed with grief & confusion. There are all their friends–campy Teddy, snotty Seema, needy Achyut, ditzy Cheryl & the very unfortunately named Dr. Butt. Together they do what people always do–form bonds, work on their relationships, & try to create spaces where they feel loved and accepted. Ranjana, settled comfortably into the groove between her birth country & her adopted one, is the heart of the book and its intersecting social circles. By the end, I felt her triumphs and revelations like they were my own. ⠀
What I love most about this book is how ordinary and bizarre it is all at the same time. These are very normal people continually pushed into abnormal circumstances by emotion–not by being Indians in America. Satyal writes the line between cultural authenticity & representation very well, so while these characters are thoroughly Indian, nobody is trying to define the experience. They’re just living their lives and taking us along. If you don’t get all the cultural references, that’s fine. Neither do they, sometimes.
So to recap; excellent writing, characters I’d want to hang out with in real life, cultural realness & a plot that left me with a sigh in my heart and a smile on my face. 5 stars & a heaping dish of assorted barfi to No One Can Pronounce My Name.
If you’d like to read this book, consider purchasing it HERE from Bookshop.org, an alternative to Amazon. I am an affiliate of Bookshop and will earn a commission if you click and purchase from any link on this page. As always…thanks for reading.