Nisha Desai is a college-educated, young woman from a traditional Hindu family in India. She loves romance novels and longs for the kind of love and romance she reads about in her books, but right now, she would settle for a man who isn't from the bottom of the barrel where her father seems to keep finding them. She and her sister, Vinita, endure an endless parade of unsuitable suitors, but no matter how many times they say no, their father just won't give up or change his tactics. The bad boy biker next door reminds Nisha of the heroes in her romance novels, but she has convinced herself that a relationship with a guy like that only works in fiction. Instead, she's set her cap for a handsome Indian American who will soon be coming to India on a bride tour.
As Nisha decides what to do about her love life, east meets west in a culture clash, as her aunt and cousins from America arrive for their first visit. Under the influence of her cousins' western ways, Nisha finds herself having all sorts of adventures, from bringing a poor street urchin home from the dump to getting arrested for protesting a water shortage. Then there is her aunt, with her new age ways and inscrutable philosophy, and her sister who has suddenly gotten it into her head that she and Nisha are adopted. If that wasn't enough, her father has decided that the cow he found wandering the streets is the reincarnation of an Indian deity who is blessing him with good fortune, and brings the animal home as a pet. Life with Nisha's family is crazy to be sure, but the real surprise for her is how freeing it is to finally bust loose from all the insanity.
Indian Maidens Bust Loose is a chick-lit story told Indian style. It is a hilarious romp through Indian culture as a young, twenty-something woman gradually finds the courage to break free from her parents' old-school ways and live her own life. I learned a great deal about India and the culture there, and many of the things I discovered made me extremely grateful to live in America. This book is riotously funny, but woven throughout the humorous moments, the author managed to showcase the stark reality of the inequality which Indian women face on a daily basis. I can scarce imagine what it must be like to be pressured or even forced into an arranged marriage with someone you don't like much less love. Not to mention, not being allowed to take the job you want in spite of being highly educated and well qualified for it. And it's not just the women who face inequality, but the lower classes and orphans on the street. It was very inspiring to see the female characters in the story banding together to build a better life for themselves, but it's all done in a fun, light-hearted way.
Nisha is the first-person narrator of the story. She's a college graduate who wants to become a journalist. Her father won't allow it though, because the job might entail her working late hours, and a woman being out after a certain time of night is considered a big no-no. She and her sister, Vinita, also have to endure an endless parade of suitors, and their father seems to keep picking all the worst ones he can find. Nisha is a romantic at heart. She loves to read, mostly romance novels. There is a part of her that desperately wants to experience the kind of love and romance she reads about, but the other part of her is a realist, knowing the best she can probably hope for is finding a man who isn't from the bottom of the barrel where her father seems to be looking. Mostly, Nisha is the normal one in a family of wacky people, and is just trying to navigate through all the waves they've set in motion to find a place for herself in the world where she can feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging.
Indian Maidens Bust Loose had tons of uproarious moments. It could have been subtitled "Misadventures in Arranged Marriages" or "How Many Ways Can My American Cousins Ruin My Reputation." The suitor meeting with the two brothers that ended in a family feud was hysterical. The things that happen to their poor little car were utterly zany. Nisha's father is a penny-pinching miser, so much so that he tried to haggle with the police like he would a street vendor over the cost of his daughters' bail. But I think the most priceless thing of all was the "magical" cow that her fathered turned into a money-making operation when he became convinced that it was the reincarnation of an Indian deity. This story would certainly make a riotous romantic comedy movie that I'd eagerly pay to see. I spent the majority of the time reading this book with a grin on my face, if not outright laughing, sometimes hard enough to produce tears of mirth.
Vidya Samson is a talented author who drew me in right from the start and kept me coming back with moments like those I mentioned above, as well as plenty of family drama. She masterfully combines heart-warming moments with hilarity and deftly weaves multiple plot points and characters together, bringing all of them full-circle by the end, with a few unexpected twists thrown in for good measure. Not a single event in the book is mere filler or wasted space. Everything has a purpose that is eventually revealed. I have no idea if Ms. Samson intends to write any more for Nisha or not. It seems like there could be the potential for more story, and if she did write it, I'd gladly read it. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to checking out her other works.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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