Appalled that her sister, Mindi, would even consider an arranged marriage, Nikki Grewal reluctantly pins Mindi’s dating profile to their Sikh temple’s marriage board. But Nikki may be the sister whose life changes.
Nikki has pretty much disgraced herself and her family—British, Punjabi, Sikh—several times over: in addition to dropping out of law school, she’s moved out of the family home and into her own flat above O’Reilly’s pub, where she tends bar. She’s also taken several lovers, none of whom she ever intended to marry. So Mindi’s desire for a traditional arranged marriage bewilders Nikki, particularly since Mindi has a successful career as a nurse and doesn't need anyone else to support her. While posting the profile, though, Nikki notices an advertisement for a writing instructor. Although disinclined to hire a young, modern woman, Kulwinder Kaur, Community Development Director of the Sikh Community Association, has had no other applicants. So Nikki begins teaching a group of Punjabi widows, who quickly hijack her lesson plans. Instead of teaching a creative writing course, or even an introductory English literacy course, Nikki finds herself facilitating an erotic storytelling workshop. The widows delight in telling titillating tales of illicit sexual encounters despite the danger of discovery by the Brothers, the self-appointed morality police. As Nikki deepens her relationships with the widows—and finds a new boyfriend along the way—she learns of the strange death of Kulwinder’s daughter, Maya, who may have been accused of dishonorable behavior. But trying to discover what happened to Maya may land Nikki herself in trouble. With a keen ear for dialogue and humor, Jaswal (Sugarbread, 2016, etc.) deftly entwines these women’s lives, creating a world in which women of multiple generations find common ground in the erotic fantasies that reveal both lived experiences and wistful dreams.
By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants.