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A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian

The Book:

Suneel Sarath, a Stanford graduate and now an anesthesiologist works in San Francisco. He was born in India but has lived in the United States long enough to feel and be completely Americanized. He prefers to be called Neel, lives in a condo, has a foreign girlfriend and very few Indian friends.

Neel like every other American Indian still struggles with his identity and has to oblige to his conservative mother’s request of making a trip to India to visit his ailing (dying) grandfather. Once in India he realizes that this was yet another trap to get him married. He decides to play it safe and just make a social visit to please his relatives but things do not work out the way he planned, as he soon finds himself married to Leila, a teacher of English literature. Leila has remained a spinster long enough to have no hopes of marriage and is very excited when she finally becomes the bride to a very eligible bachelor. The book narrates the differences between Leila and Neel and if they manage to make the marriage work.

The View:

This book was a joy to read. Anne Cherian’s debut novel portrays the challenges faced in arranged marriages in a very beautiful and elegant manner. Hailing from a family were arranged marriages are the norm, I could very easily relate to the main characters. An almost arrogant husband who idolizes the western world a bit too much, a new bride who leaves behind her job, friends and family in hopes of a happy married life and an alien country or surrounding that could sometimes do more harm than good. I almost had a rendezvous feeling.

The novel is written from three perspectives that of Neel’s, Leila’s and Caroline’s (Neel’s girlfriend). All of the characters save Leila were believably flawed (maybe Neel a bit too flawed) and struggled with their uncertainties and insecurities. Caroline was very predictable and so were Neel’s Indian friends. Neel is hate-able and comes across as an educated moron who cannot decide what he needs to do with his life. He adds a lot of character to the book and plays a very vital role in making Leila the person she becomes. Leila is picture perfect and I loved the self-confidence she gains while struggling with her loveless married life. She stands out as a woman of class with great will power who finally gets what she deserved.

The book is a compelling read and while some may argue that the events and faces portrayed are a little too dramatic, I have to disagree. I have numerous cousins, friends and family members who have made arranged marriages work and most importantly have done it in their own subtle and powerful way. Rated a 5 on 5.


6 Responses

  1. Wonderful review! I especially enjoy a novel that I am able to identify with…..

  2. Sounds like good read – may not read it myself, but I think will end up in watching a Hollywood movie made on this novel soon.

    Thanks for a great blog post.

  3. this was a really good book. my friend recommended it to me and I finished it in less than 2 days! I liked it very much, and I love the way Anne wrote it. It seemed so real, and the words were so clear that you can practically see what’s happening in front of you. I loved it, and i will read it again. Great job Anne! 2 thumbs up! 🙂

  4. I just discovered your blog. It will help as my desire to read more has been ignited. I just read this book and was completely consumed. The author so clearly introduced me to some indian culture and I can’t resist a love story. It would make a great movie..

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