MARRIAGE UNARRANGED by Ritu Bhathal : A Review

 

 

41RSRN4EudL-1   Blogging friend Ritu Bhathal, whom I had read previously as a poet (Poetic Ritual) and appreciated and enjoyed, has written a novel. Its characters are lovely Indian-British young people.  Aashi, the bride-to-be and her family: brothers Sunny and Bali, the perfect mom and pop, best friend Kiran are awaiting the nuptials of Aashi and Ravi, her fiancee.

As the story opens, Aashi arrives unexpectedly at Ravi’s apartment, catching him and his “other girlfriend” in the act. Devastated, Aashi refuses to give up her dream trip to India to prepare for the wedding, and instead embarks with both brothers and Kiran rather than waste the tickets. Their itinerary has just changed–not to plan a wedding but to cancel plans already made. The friends meet handsome Arjun on a train, and drag him along on the errands adding much hilarity and communications blunders.

The book is filled with travel, glamor, fashion and adventure as the five young people encounter the culture and people of India. The most spectacular scene occurs at the Golden Temple where the group explores and observes religious observances involving bathing in the beautiful pools and working in the temple kitchens, doing sewa. So many characters with so many motivations and differences could be confusing, but the author conveniently titles each chapter with a character’s name, then presents both that character’s point of view and his/her plot twists and character changes which makes it easy for the reader to follow the amazingly glamorous trips, photo shoots, and buying excursions as the young people make their way.

This is a read where the reader comes to really care about the characters and the outcomes of the plots and subplots. It all comes to a very satisfying conclusion which the author promises to flesh out in a sequel. I, for one, can hardly wait to read more.

BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A REVIEW

This 2016 publication particularly appealed to me because I had read Divakaruni’s One Amazing Thing and because I knew she was a professor of Creative Writing at The University of Houston, not only my alma mater, but also one of the five campuses in the system that employs me. She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, so I was aware of her writing prowess going in to this novel. It deals with four generations of women and the ins and outs of mother daughter relationships.

The setting ranges from Bengal, India to Houston, Texas, another selling point for me. Basically it is the story of Sabritri, daughter of the village sweets maker, Durga; Sabritri’s daughter Bella; and her daughter Tara. The novel explores many different forms and kinds of love, love that reaches across generations. All of the women are strong female characters, all finely developed and drawn. The novel opens with a letter which Sabritri is writing at Bela’s request to her granddaughter, Tara. The letter and its significance surfaces at the end of the novel where all is revealed, all suppressed emotions let out, all misconceptions straightened out, all family mysteries solved.  All in all it is a most satisfactory ending. The plot moves us through estrangements and reconciliations as it twists and turns, masterfully allowing us to feel what the characters are feeling.

This author is a supreme storyteller, a fine characterization master, and a very readable author.  This is one I stayed up late to finish.