Title: The Sari Shop Widow
Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Genre: Fiction
Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books (August 24, 2009)
Source: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5

My Thoughts:

I had such high hopes for this book but only a few pages in and I knew I was not going to like it. But I thought I would give it a chance since it was easy to read and I was hoping it would improve. But as you can see from my rating, it didn’t. Before I tell you what I didn’t like in the book, let me tell you about the plot.

Anjali Kapadia, a 37 year old widow, owns a high-end boutique of Indian clothes and Jewelery called ‘Silk and Sapphires’ in Little India of New Jersey. She lives with her parents who help her manage the store. When her business is suddenly in financial crisis, her father invites his rich and successful big brother, Jeevan to pull them out of it. Jeevan arrives with his rather young and dashing business associate, Rishi, who is a British-Indian and has many successful businesses of his own. Naturally we all know what is going to happen next.

The very first thing I disliked about the novel was the main character Anjali. She had this holier than thou attitude which I hated. She thought she was better than all the other Indian girls out there. The author probably meant to portray her as an independent woman, which she was, but to me she came across as a snob. The author wanted to portray a woman who was the best of both worlds, but mostly Anjali criticized her own culture. As an example, read this

Anjali watched her mother flash her most cordial smile and bend down to touch Jeevan kaka’s feet in the conservative way of greeting an elder. So she followed her mother’s example and did the same. It’s be best if she played the passive little Hindu woman–for the moment.

First of all, touching your elder’s feet is not conservative, it’s a cultural thing. And by suggesting that modern woman do not do that is plain ridiculous. It’s a form of respect and if you think you are not modern if you do that, I am going to have very little respect for you. There a few other similar things that irked me in this novel. In fact at one point, as was convenient, she also says this

Maybe despite her American ways she was still an old-fashioned Indian woman who looked on total fidelity and trust as the cornerstone of marriage.

huh? Generalizations are a pet peeve of mine and this novel had them in abundance. The story was also pretty superficial than I thought it would be. It was a simple love story, which I would have loved anyway, if it had a better central character. Even Rishi, the handsome, dashing guy who supposedly every girl dreams of, was always better because he was British-Indian with Indian cultural values thrown in when convenient.

I can really go on and on about what I didn’t like in this book. The one and only positive thing it has is a small glimpse into the life of Indian-American families. That’s about it. Read it at your own risk.

Swapna’s review is very positive though, so I hope you go read that for a different perceptive.