This is a story that delves deeply into the evolving gender identity of women in India and Indian American families. We follow Lakshmi from her turbulent struggles belonging to a poor caste in India, but with a loving family, to her daughter Pooja. Pooja has a difficult relationship with her mother, but you can understand so much of their struggles because of the depth the author gives do various circumstances that formed their personalities. Pooja serves as a transitional character that has the freedom of living in America while still being tied to the traditions maintained by her brusque mother. This tumultuous relationship serves as a catalyst for Pooja's determination to form a much closer dynamic with her daughter Deepa, our third narrator.
This is an ambitious story and it is LONG, and there were times where the editing suffered (missing words, an incorrect article, etc.). However, I was fairly invested in the story throughout, so that didn't bother me as much as it usually does. It's told in four parts, each from the POV of a different generation of women in this Indian family, the fourth as told by an all-seeing narrator. Although focused on one family, it is really more about the evolution of gender roles and the clash of American influence against Indian cultural expectations. I found myself at times frustrated with the character choices but I always sympathized with the difficulties they faced and the prevailing shadow of judgment each women experienced. It was a fascinating and sometimes difficult read, even if I wished it could have been 100 pages shorter. I'm sure there were places that could have been trimmed, but I believe shrinking any of the women's roles in the narrative would have been a disservice. Without the depth, I wouldn't have been able to understand so much about why these women made the choices they did.
The author's knowledge and attention to detail made it feel personal to me, even with my limited personal experience with the intricacies of Indian culture. It may not be a story for everyone, but I very much enjoyed this peek into acculturation and emergence of women's independence, as told through this family's journey.