Deol’s debut novel chronicles an Indian woman’s personal journey across cultural boundaries.
When the parents of Malti, a young Indian woman, marry her to an Indian doctor and send her to New York, she finds herself adrift in a foreign land, struggling to find her place. In a loveless marriage, Malti yearns for a child, but when she becomes pregnant, her husband announces he has always been in love with another woman, and he abandons her. Thus begins Malti’s evolution from a sheltered girl to a strong, independent single mother who uses her dedication to her son and her career to hide the depth of her hurt. The novel follows Malti through four decades—from America to India and back again—and Malti’s son, Amit, as he experiences his first love. After spending his youth obsessing over a fantasy woman that will complete his soul, the fully Americanized young man finds the woman he considers his soul mate during a work retreat on Cape Cod. Nursing a bizarre obsession, he zealously pursues Zeena, a traditional Indian woman from Bangalore. Zeena’s capitulation to his pursuit and their resulting romance feels forced and unrealistic, though the interplay of their different societal traditions is interesting and well-researched. The novel explores the conflict between Indian and American cultures, as well as the complexities of Islamic extremists and different Muslim sects. Although the underlying theme of the story is Malti’s journey, we don’t learn enough about who she is as a person. Secondary characters are intriguing, including Malti’s grandmother and her hopeful beau, but are also incompletely realized. Occasionally, conflicts resolve too easily. For example, when Malti attempts to change the beliefs of a young Muslim father who has taken up with the Islamic extremists, she finds little resistance, and a chance to explore complicated issues is lost.
Portrays rich cultural details and displays significant research but needs more character depth and conflict.