The Sari Shop Widow/ posted in: Reading The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal
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Set in New Jersey
Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents' sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison's bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling. . .
To the rescue comes Anjali's wealthy, dictatorial Uncle Jeevan and his business partner, Rishi Shah--a mysterious Londoner, complete with British accent, cool gray eyes, and skin so fair it makes it hard to believe he's Indian. Rishi's cool, foreign demeanor triggers distrust in Anjali and her mother. But for Anjali, he also stirs something else, a powerful attraction she hasn't felt in a decade. And the feeling is mutual. . .
Anjali has been working in her parents’ sari shop in New Jersey since her husband’s sudden death ten years ago. She loves designing clothes that are fancy enough for special occasions and weddings. Her father handles the finances so she doesn’t know that they are close to bankruptcy until he calls in his dictatorial older brother from India to bail out the business. He brings his new business partner to help.
This is a typical chick lit story with the twist that Anjali lives with her very conservative Indian immigrant family. That made this book a bit frustrating to read from a western feminist perspective. The male love interest is way too pushy to be appropriate in my opinion. He figures out ways to control her whole life without discussing it with her. At one point a meeting is called with Anjali’s mother, father, uncle, and the love interest to discuss his relationship with her. She was not included and no one found this odd. I actually thought that this was going to be another obstacle in the story once Anjali found out. I was hoping that she would dump him and realize that she didn’t need him to be successful. That didn’t happen.
I’m not sure if this lack of agency in her own life was an attempt to convey what it is like to be a widow in a conservative Indian family (which was discussed and which she tried to rebel against for a while) or just the writer giving in to the trope of a rich man coming to solve all the heroine’s problems. I actually found Anjali at the beginning of the story to be more interesting than she became at the end.
There was also a disturbing amount of comment on the fact that Rishi doesn’t “look Indian” and how that made him more desirable to women.
That being said, this was a setting that I hadn’t seen before in a book. This is a high end sari shop in a neighborhood in New Jersey that is populated by Indian immigrants. This is a world where brides drop fortunes to have the most lavish wedding imaginable. I would have loved to see a book that focuses more on that.