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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Sari Shop Widow: Little India Pops; Unfortunately, Not Much Else Does

(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Ever since her husband died, 37-year-old Anjali Kapadia has thrown herself wholeheartedly into revamping her family's sari shop. Located in New Jersey's Little India, it's now a posh little boutique selling pricey jewelry, exquisite wedding attire and traditional Indian clothing. Silk & Sapphires is Anjali's baby, a child of whose transformation she's very proud. So, when her father - the store's bookkeeper and part owner - announces that the boutique isn't making enough money to sustain itself, Anjali's crushed. It's not just the money the shop brings in, but the opportunity it gives her to create and showcase her unique clothing designs. Without this creative outlet, she doesn't know who she'll survive.
Her father's plan to save the family business - which he sets into motion without consulting Anjali or her mother - involves flying his brother in from India. Critical and demanding, Jeevan Kapadia is no one's favorite houseguest. Still, his wealth and business acumen may be the only thing that can save Silk & Sapphires. When Jeevan arrives, he surprises them all - not only has the once plump old man slimmed down, but the greedy businessman has also taken on a partner. Rishi Shah, a handsome Idio-Brit, specializes in rescuing failed businesses. He will also be staying with the Kapadias. Anjali can barely control her anger at the pair, who whoosh in with their opinions and aggresive tactics. Since she lives with her parents, she can't even escape them at home. Her frustration drives her into the arms of Kip Rowling, a white bar owner with whom she has a convenient, if illicit, relationship. Despite their mutually fulfilling encounters, Anjali finds her thoughts turning toward the confounding Shah. Even as he makes over her baby with a swift, moneyed hand, Anjali can't deny that she's drawn to him. Still, he's only in New Jersey for a short while. There's also the matter of his live-in girlfriend ... With everything on the line, can Anjali hold on to the shop that's become most precious to her? Can she resist the magnetic Shah? Or is she doomed to have her heart stomped on once again? Will she ever find true happiness? Or did she lose that chance forever when she buried the husband she adored?
The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal invites readers into the exotic world of cardamom-laced, curry-spiced, sari-swathed Little India. Anjali represents the collision of the old world and the new - she's a smart, successful career woman who's loyal to her traditional Hindu upbringing. As much as she craves independence, she's also dedicated to supporting her parents and younger brother. She's strong, brave, and fiercely protective of her injured heart. All this should make her sympathetic, which she is to a point, but I also found her cold and irritatingly hypocritical. Like the other characters in the book, she isn't developed enough to really come alive. The plot doesn't help - it's as predictable as the rising sun. I did enjoy my glimpse into the Indian world, which Bantwal describes with authenticity, pride and tenderness. In fact, Bantwal brings her setting to such vivid life that it eclipses her characters, who are not quite stereotypes, but not quite fully rounded either. If the writing had been a little more polished, the cast a little more colorful, and the plot even a little bit surprising, I would have liked this book a whole lot more. As is, I found it readable, but also very putdownable.
Grade: C
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language and sexual content

1 comment:

  1. Susan,

    Thank you for reviewing my book on your blog. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into it, considering you review so many books each month.

    Wishing you Happy Blogging and Good Karma!

    Shobhan Bantwal


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