on June 11th 2009
Published by Putnam Adult
Set in India
It is a universal problem. A man retires and immediately starts driving his wife crazy. What to do? Open a marriage bureau on the front veranda, of course.
Mr. Ali is was a government clerk. Now he runs a marriage bureau. He advertises for matches for his clients in the newspaper. He keeps files with the special requests of people seeking spouses. Do you need someone from the same caste? How tall or short? Will your wife be expected to live with her mother-in-law? Hindu, Muslim, Christian?
When the business takes off, he needs an assistant. Mrs. Ali finds a local woman, Aruna, to help out. She’s perfect. She’s unmarried because her family can’t afford a wedding and she is working to help the family finances.
This book is very simple on the surface. It is the stories of the people who come to the marriage bureau and the story of the Ali family. The style of writing reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.
This book is very good at providing a look at the attitudes towards arranged marriages in India in different religious groups. What happens if people want to work out their own marriage? How do the Muslim and Hindu neighbors interact?
If you want a book that immerses you in a slice of life in an Indian coastal town, this is a good read.