Invisible Lives/ posted in: General Invisible Lives by Anjali Banerjee
Published by Downtown Press on September 1st 2006
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Lakshmi Sen was born with a magical ability to perceive the secret longings in others. Putting aside her own dreams to help run her widowed mother's struggling Seattle sari shop, Mystic Elegance, Lakshmi knows exactly how to bring happiness to customers -- from lonely immigrants to starry-eyed young brides. And to honor her father's dying wish, she has agreed to marry a respectable Indian doctor who will uphold her family's traditions. But when a famous Indian actress chooses Mystic Elegance to provide her wedding trousseau, Lakshmi finds herself falling for the actress's sexy chauffeur -- all-American Nick Dunbar -- and her powers seem to desert her just as she needs them most. As Nick draws Lakshmi into his world, however, new dreams awaken in her, and she begins to uncover deeper, startling longings in her mother, her friends, her fiance, and even herself.
I was so excited to hear about this author. I love light and fluffy books with magical realism. A book set in a sari shop by an ownvoices author sounded wonderful.
Lakshmi Sen is visited by the goddess Lakshmi in utero and given a gift of being able to know what people want. She is also made incredibly beautiful but is warned to hide that beauty for reasons that aren’t clear. It is never really discussed after the first part of the story either.
She co-owns a sari shop with her mother. She can tell what customers truly need when they come in. She’s developing a reputation for it. That draws a Bollywood actress to the store for her wedding outfits. But Lakshmi’s gift disappears when she enters the store with her driver.
This is the where the book started to lose me. The driver, Nick, is the guy we are supposed to root for in the story. But he doesn’t seem to offer anything good to Lakshmi. Just his presence is harming her. She loses customers when he is around because she is unable to do her job.
There is colorism in this book. An elderly customer comes in to the store and starts talking about how she uses skin lightening cream. It could almost be dismissed as the fancy of a woman who is a ridiculous character but it isn’t pointed out as such. Then later a woman is being described as ugly and part of the description is how her skin is so dark. Later, the elderly woman from the shop is complimented and she says that the skin lightening cream is working.
Nick makes several casually racist comments to Lakshmi that aren’t commented on. He invites her to meet his family. He says that his sister would love to try on saris because she likes “ethnic clothes.” I was like, “Excuse me?” but nothing is mentioned about it in the story. Then when he gets there his mother “compliments” Lakshmi by telling her that she looks so exotic. Yeah. Then he all but orders her to forget about her trip to India to meet the man her mother wants her to marry. On the basis of what? They barely know each other and she’s supposed to give up all previous plans for him? This guy seems like a control freak that she should get away from quickly.
The book never redeemed Nick for me. It tried but he is still interfering with her work even though the book tried to spin it more positively.
Let’s count this one as an ‘I read it so you don’t have to’ book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Backlist Books
- Books Set in North America
- POC authors