Monday, September 3, 2012

Everything Was Good-Bye

This novel by Gurjinder Basran is about the fifth I've read this summer about Indo-Americans.  The difference is this one is by a Canadian and set in Vancouver.  It is similar in that it explores the difficulties young women have caught between the traditional values of their parents and the independence of their peers.

Meena is 18 when the novel starts, the sixth daughter of a mother who was widowed more than 10 years earlier but is still deep in mourning.  The three oldest sisters entered into arranged marriages and stick with them despite evidence of abuse in one of them.  One sister disappeared in her late teens to escape the restrictive lifestyle and has been disowned by her mother but Meena is always curious about her fate.  Both Meena and the last sister enter into arranged marriages before the book's end.

Meena is a smart girl who dreams of becoming a writer and falls for a "white trash" boy in her class.  He leaves after high school and begs her to come with but she can't break free of her family obligations.  Instead she earns a degree, gets a communications job with a PR firm and meets the various men her family deems suitable, eventually marrying one who she doesn't love and admits he doesn't love her.  She gets absorbed into his overbearing family (though does genuinely like her gentle and educated father in law).  When her husband and in-laws leave for a summer in India she unexpectedly meets her high school sweetheart.  This meeting leads to both happy and heartbreaking consequences for Meena but the most positive result is she manages to assert herself without permanently damaging her relationship with her mother.

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