A romance between a woman from a poor, Southern family and a man from a large, close-knit, Indian immigrant clan sparks a clash that threatens to destroy the lives of three main characters in this debut novel.
Jenny Jenkins and Roshan Desai meet in dental school in Memphis and are simply good friends —until a graduation night celebration sends them into each other’s arms. Unfortunately, Roshan’s mother, Esha, who has a key to her son’s apartment, finds them together the next morning. Staring at Jenny, Esha says to her son, “Roshan, you need to take out the trash.” Jenny and Roshan go their separate ways only to reconnect after a decade, reigniting their passion; family chaos ensues. Each of the three characters has a life-altering back story, pieces of which are revealed along the way. Jenny becomes a successful dentist in Atlanta; Roshan agrees to a traditional, arranged marriage, but his dental practice is jeopardized by alcoholism and his lack of interest in his work. Esha is tortured by her son’s loveless and childless marriage but has learned to always maintain a public face of contentment: “If you tell a lie often enough, doesn’t it become the truth?” Jenny and Roshan are almost polar opposites. Jenny left home early to reinvent herself. She is independent and relentless in her pursuit of her career. Roshan is a rebel, but he’s constrained by tradition and various obligations to his widowed mother. He is both smothered and nourished by his family. Of these three fully developed characters, Esha is the most intriguing. Widowed when Roshan was 4 and thoroughly entrenched in Indian tradition, she gradually ventures out into mainstream society in search of purpose and reconciliation with her son. Parbhoo, a Southerner who is herself married to an Indian immigrant from South Africa, enriches the narrative with lavish descriptions of Indian food, dress, and family gatherings. And she has a wonderful eye for detail—at a celebration, Esha watches the younger women dancing: “The tiny mirrors on their flowing skirts created a swirl of colors, rotating in a circle.”
An impressive, culturally informative, and engaging love story filled with conflicts.