Book Review: Good Indian Girls

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It was as if the dead woman had witnessed a final secret. A blissful peace wrapped her features and Lovedeep hoped she would look as pretty, as rested, as completed, as this woman did in the video. But what had she ever done? She felt suddenly small and stupid, that her life was coming to an end and this was all, this wasteland of an apartment, this unmarried life, childless. Who had she ever cared for? What accomplishments did she leave behind, what unspoken mercies done for strangers?

Good Indian Girls, by Ranbir Singh Sidhu

2017 has helped me realize the importance of setting measurable, trackable goals, whether in my personal or professional life, with the help of my trusty bullet journal. I’ve always been partial to record-keeping, and my bullet journal provides a customizable, lovingly well-worn space to do just that. My reading goal for 2017 was to read more books than I read in 2016, and to read more books by new authors. So far, as we approach the midpoint of 2017, I’ve read ten books (which, considering my goal of 36, is a little short), nine by new authors. The bullet journal makes it easy to see if I’m making enough progress, and whether it’s necessary to adjust my goals given the current circumstances.

I’ve been trying to dive into books without too much context, and so I picked up this volume¬†mostly based on the title. I was interested in what I figured was a collection of short stories revolving around the immigrant experience, specifically that of young women navigating the cultural differences of their native India and their current countries of residence. I figured I’d easily relate to it, as I generally have with other immigrant narratives, while learning more about different facets of Indian culture.

But…a few of these stories deal with what I expected – namely, the titular short story, which concerns a woman named Lovedeep with an agonizingly empty social life. The rest of the collection follows characters of Indian heritage, of various religions and ages, in mostly preposterous situations. A particular story that stands out, which is by no means the most bizarre, concerns an ambassador’s wife who considers cooking her pet snake to serve at a dinner party.

To be blunt, I didn’t enjoy this book, although it didn’t have to do with the book’s attempts at magical realism. I have high expectations for short stories. In a way, short stories are much more difficult to write than novels. The author must convey meaning, craft characters, and deliver some sort of punchline in a small number of pages. My favorite short stories (Shirley Jackson’s “Charles”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Roald Dahl’s “The Landlady”) all do this expertly. Yet, this book fails to do that. The writing style is often confusing, its symbolism and themes messy, and the characters forgettable.

YES OR NO?: NO. Ultimately forgettable, confusing, and a little uncomfortable, I wouldn’t seek out more of this author’s work based on this collection. Some of the stories were more enjoyable than others, but all in all, I wouldn’t really recommend this.

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