Book Summary of One and a Half Wife
Unlike most Indian immigrants, Amara Malhotra is not destined to achieve the American Dream. Much to the anxiety of her parents – the spirited Biji and the doting Baba – Amara leads an unremarkable life. That is, until she marries Harvard-educated millionaire, Prashant Roy.
However, this fairy-tale isn’t meant to last, and even as Amara’s marriage collapses, she finds herself returning to the land of her birth, to the small city of Shimla. Here, in a borough grappling with questions of modernity, Amara is caught in a tug-of-war between old beliefs and new ones, between parents who favour obedience and new friends who encourage independent thought.
With powerful insights, One and a Half Wife traces the coming-of-age of multiple characters, while re-defining family, relationships and love in contemporary India.
You know most days I really can’t afford to read and some days it seems that I did rather lie down and close my eyes and rest when I have a few minutes to myself. So I really did not know why I requested this book from Blogadda,com. There is no uniqueness in the blurb and it sounds really boring. The blurb really talks about immigration, trying to blend in etc etc. I would rather read Jhumpa Lahiri, because she is one who deals with these topics with such finesses that any other Indian author would have to really struggle to make a mark.
But I was blown away… really. I really LOVED this book. This is one book I want you to pick up and read… This is one book I will insist you read… and will not let you rest until you read. That blurb needs working, it doesn’t do the book any justice. At a bookstore I would not have picked this one up after reading that blurb. Now I think I am blabbering, but I cannot tell you how much I loved this book.
The mid-wife had another delivery to make across town at Chota Shimla. She didn’t have time to play coquette with chota girls.So she grabbed a hot white coal from the pot of coals lying on Biji’s stomach and brought it close to Amara’s left foot. Amara wailed, declaring herself only under provocation.
The story starts off with a parrot picking a card up which will ascertain Amara’s future as a wife. This is the parrot who tells her mother that she will be a “one and a half wife”. And hence starts Amara’s story. Amara has been taught to desire only 3 things – “It is God’s desire”, “It is Biji’s desire” and “It is His desire” – “His” being the future husband. Biji (mother) made sure that Amara understood that the ultimate thing in life for her was to find a rich boy and marry him. Amara’s uncle who is settled in US, after her birth applies for the green card for the Malhotras.
After waiting for 14 years, Malhotra’s reach America, where her uncle helps them out albeit hesitantly. It is not a smooth ride from there for Amara and neither is it for her parents. Armed with a list of things they must not do in America, to pronouncing the words the American way to changing their looks, they struggle in every way.
I must say that there is no dull moment in this book. You just read on and on without considering putting it down. Amara’s childhood reminded me of mine and even with an army of characters, each character has a distinctive role and a well-defined space. Amara’s struggles in the US and her life are discussed not to cater sympathy for her but to really show-case the Indian community in the US. The author also deals with the subject of divorce carefully and skillfully showcases how it is truly dealt with abroad and in India.
“This is all hogwash, she told herself. All marriages were a consequence of security, tradition, money and beauty. Love was a chance, a lucky coincidence. Its existence was an after-thought, for more serious matters cemented marriage.”
“It was consequently fitting for an immigrant to blend in with America like sugar with water or better still, to avoid a diabetic relationship, to blend in like air with water.”
“Everything fits together in America except the immigrant’s identity.”
There is not one anti-hero but everyone just behaves as per there circumstances and the thinking instilled in them through age-old traditions. This story is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It was not only for Amara, but also for her parents, her sister and so many others. It is a beautiful story and it is lovingly told.
I really insist you read it today J
About the Author
A financial journalist by day and a writer by night, Meghna Pant is the editor of a business magazine. She has formerly worked as a TV anchor for NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV. Her short stories have been published in over a dozen literary magazines, across four countries.
An avid traveller, Meghna Pant has stayed in various cities around the world, from Mumbai and Singapore to Zurich and New York City. She is currently based in Dubai.
One and a Half Wife – Meghna’s debut novel – has been long listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award, selected as a top ten finalists in Word Hustler’s Literary Storm Novel Contest, and made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Thanks to Blogadda.com for my review copy.
Buy it from Flipkart and enjoy there exemplary service 🙂