Indian immigrants to the U.S. struggle to find self-acceptance and meaningful relationships.
Spanning a remarkable range of cultural milieus, Satyal’s second novel (Blue Boy, 2009) tells the intersecting stories of three Indian immigrants living in a Cleveland suburb. Harit, an emotionally stunted middle-aged department store clerk, disguises himself in a sari to convince his nearly catatonic mother that her beloved daughter is still alive. Ranjana, a 40-something aspiring writer, has suspicions about her husband’s fidelity, is disappointed by her friendships with other Indian women, and has doubts about her self-worth. Ranjana’s son Prashant, a Princeton freshman, harbors misgivings about his major and life trajectory. Uniting the three is a keen desire to feel, and be recognized as, fully human—emotionally and sexually fulfilled, connected to their families and communities, and free of the grip of past traumas. Satyal imbues each of these characters (and a host of their friends, co-workers, and acquaintances) with psychological depth and does so, often, with cinematic vividness. These are stories of people who have not had the luxury of living unexamined lives. Having felt the sting of being scrutinized or ignored because of their accented English, their skin color, or their sexual orientation, they have developed introspection into both an art form and a crutch, so that even simple human connection comes as a wonderful surprise. Ranjana, for instance, is “pleased to discover that you could feel a friendship’s construction if you took the time and care to notice it.” As their lives intermingle, they discover not just friendship, but the value of their own heightened sensitivity to the world.
A funny, uplifting novel that delivers emotionally complex characters.