In Judge’s novel, four women share a bond that reaches from their native India to Northern California.
Judge’s debut novel follows four Indian women who met in boarding school and reconnect as adults. The narrative shifts from one character to another, with Divya, Mini, Priya and Alka taking turns as narrator. When Divya moves from Queens to the Bay Area, where her perennially unsuccessful husband is hoping to start over in business, the four women begin meeting for a weekly rummy game, sharing their worries about their husbands and children, comforting each other through death and divorce, and keeping secrets that threaten to tear them apart. The four women are all distinctly drawn personalities, and Judge also has a way with the book’s minor players; Divya’s social-climbing mother, despite her brief appearance on the page, is one of the book’s most vivid characters. Alka’s high expectations for her only child, which drive the most dramatic episodes, seem at first glance to be part of the stereotype of the striving immigrant, but Judge develops the story fully, allowing Alka to become a rounded, plausible character. Some techniques, however, including the “inner Sita,” who serves as Mini’s conscience and interior monologue, feel overused. Further editing would have improved the work: Minor errors appear often enough to be distracting. Words are capitalized unnecessarily, including every instance of “Rummy,” and the narrative shifts abruptly between first and third person, sometimes in the middle of a sentence (“Having done such a miserable job at it herself, I decided to let Ma and Papaji find the right match for my flawed being”). Although the shortcomings are noticeable, readers will likely overlook them as they find that the compelling characters and complex but authentic relationships among them keep the pages turning quickly.
Strong characters affectingly portray immigrant experiences.