In A’s debut novel, an update of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a Nashville woman struggles with perfectionism, attraction to a Hindu filmmaker, and an overbearing mother.
Mary Poser, 23 as the novel begins, was raised to be sweet, accommodating, and cheerful. A social worker, she spreads herself thin, always running late as she frantically tries to catch up with her many commitments. Mary’s mother, a Baptist pastor’s wife, nags her to get married: “he has to be Southern, he has to be Christian, and it helps a lot if he plays the guitar”—but Jason, the mother-approved wannabe country star, has recently dumped Mary. At the Nashville Film Festival, Mary meets Simha Das, a beautiful, young filmmaker, whose next project is a Bollywood version of Persuasion. They share an instant attraction and spend the night kissing. Upset with herself, late, and trying to text and drive the next day, Mary’s car flips over a bridge into the river. She has a life-altering vision of Simha, his moonstone ring glowing with white light as he tugs her upward from watery death, but she keeps the vision to herself, becoming phobic of the bridge. Simha pursues her with sweet thoughtfulness, philosophical musings, and a night of incredible passion, but Mary feels trapped by others’ expectations. She avoids Simha and allows Jason back in her life, even though he’s far less romantic, considerate, and intelligent. Will she have a second chance to be persuaded by true love? In her debut novel, A makes excellent use of her colorful, well-described Nashville backdrop. A drawback is that Mary’s waffling and inability to stand up to her mother are developed at exasperating length. Simha is obviously perfect, maybe too perfect, while Jason is obviously a dud to almost everyone; when Mary calls herself an idiot, readers may agree. But she’s stronger than she knows, as readers can also see. Apart from overdwelling on Mary’s indecision, the novel succeeds, offering some hot erotic scenes, some surprises, a good metaphor in the uncrossable bridge, and a heroine who grows in understanding herself and her spirituality.
A few flaws but entertaining and romantic.