Published: March 22, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Five years ago Divya Kapoor moves from the immigrant ghetto of Queens to the SF Bay Area with her husband and children to start over. In this new place, she re-discovers her three closest friends from the girls’ boarding school they all attended in a Himalayan foothill town. The four women commit to meet weekly at one another’s homes to eat and share and gossip, and to play the popular Indian version of Rummy.
Now the friends’ lives are all in crisis. Brilliant Alka’s thwarted ambitions and her dissatisfying marriage have turned her into an obsessive Tiger Mother. Big-hearted Priya must face the truth about her collapsing marriage. Divya herself lies awake at night struggling with her envy of the comfortable stability her friends have already attained. And, in one unexpected moment, beautiful Mini suddenly becomes a widow.
When the worst befalls Alka’s son and Divya’s frustrations spill over into the Rummy game, their once dependable world is torn apart. Will Alka’s son make it? Will Alka and Divya repair their friendship? Will Priya’s fledgling business and her blossoming relationship with a Hispanic hunk survive? Will Mini marry a WASP? Will the four friends ever play Rummy together again?
Every once in a while, you come across and author who just "gets it." This was one of those time. "Women's Fiction" is frequently sort of a throw-away genre--just a readable story without much meat. Judge, on the other hand, has written a multi-layered story that stands out among the genre.
There are a lot of books about women's friendships that deal with the relationship between 2 women or one group as a whole. Here, Judge has brought 4 distinct characters together and explored not only the relationships between each of the women in the group, but also the relationships the women have outside the group. While the 4 women met at a young age and they have all ended up in roughly the same place 25 years later, they have very different circumstances and Judge highlights this quite well.
I also really enjoyed reading the cultural details in this book. I'm not very familiar with the Indian culture and Judge really brought it to life for me-both in terms of the traditional culture and how that culture translates to those now living in the USA. Judge also includes a glossary of Indian terms at the beginning of this book, which I put to good use (and, because of this, I would recommend that anyone who wants to read this book read it in paper form instead of as an ebook).
My only complaint about this book is a technical one. Judge employs the 3rd person omniscient narrative most of the time. However, when she tells Divya's story, she switches to the 1st person. This in itself is fine, but I noticed a couple times when she seemed to get a little confused in her narration and she'll start a section or even a paragraph with one narration and end with the other. However, while the stood out for me, other readers may not even notice it.
One other criticism I have does not deal with the book itself (and, because of that, I didn't take it into consideration when putting together my thoughts for this book), but with the summary. This is one of my pet peeves...it gives away too much of the story! Authors normally don't write these, so this is not a knock against Judge or this book, but whoever did write it should have stuck with a shorter synopsis that gives potential readers a feel of the book instead of an outline of the plot.
Okay, all that aside, this is a book I highly recommend! It is an easy read with a lot of meat that should appeal to readers who like the idea of Women's Fiction, but never seem to be satisfied by it.
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program. I was encouraged, but not required, to post an honest review. I received no other compensation for this book.