My rating: 2 of 5 stars
An eye catching title and an intriguing blurb, but the expectations they raise are far from met. This book got super lucky getting picked for Reese Witherspoon’s book club in March and for me, there was an extra appeal being punjabi myself n all.
BUT had it not been for the giant push that Witherspoon’s bookclub gives it, with all those Instagram posts and stories (and possibly similar promotions on other social media channels) – I don’t think this book would have gained the popularity it has, simply on the basis of its plot and character development.
The author had a great idea and premise but has trouble sticking to it and really using the opportunity to give the story more depth and direction. The main plot strays into other threads that overtake the central theme, eventually sidelining the widows and their erotic stories, and losing out on a narrative that could have helped the reader connect with these women and every other character on a deeper level.
There was so much potential to unpack how the stories were ruffling feathers in the South Hall community, especially with the Brothers – a sort of local moral police, and becoming a movement of sorts, giving the women from the most conservative backgrounds a voice and a space to freely express themselves.
Ultimately, it came across as one big gossiping group of women trying but failing to keep the scandals in their community under wraps. It also gave me strange notions about the Punjabi community in South Hall, which I fear might become a very flawed reference point for western readers who aren’t familiar with Punjabi / Indian / South Asian cultures and communities.
Though it should have felt like a quick read, there was something about the writing that made my reading really slow and jerky, and I struggled to feel “interested” all the time. I missed the “laugh out loud” moments that everyone is talk about 😦
The only thing that kept me going was the bit of suspense that’s been built into the story.
I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t cut it for me.
I thought it was a 3.5, but now I’m feeling closer to a 2.5.