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  • An entertaining and enjoyable feel-good story

    Thanks to Goodreads and Berkley Books for a digital advance reader copy. All comments and opinions are my own. I like reading Indian rom-coms, and this title was irresistible. It turned out to fulfill all my expectations and was a satisfying, fun read. In some (good) ways it reminded me of "Crazy Rich Asians" with the over-the-top wedding, fish-out-of-water heroine, cultural etiquette and customs, and notion of following your heart. Niki has always been the good Indian daughter, while her sister Jasmine was the wild one. So when she gets laid off from her safe but boring job, she takes the opportunity to travel to India to celebrate her best friend Diya's wedding. While raised in America by her Indian-born parents, Niki often wrestles with her self-identity and the expectations that come with the labels "American" or "Indian." When she arrives in India, Niki meets Diya's childhood best friend, Sam, and immediately develops a crush. She decides to have a fling with him, to throw off her "good girl" mantle and prove she's more like fun-loving Jasmine. Admitting to herself, "my whole life I'd made practical decision after practical decision, and yes, my parents were happy with me, but I wasn't. I had a career I wasn't passionate about and an older sister I was jealous of and an addiction to romantic comedies that I lived through vicariously, and that was it." And that's when this India-based rom-com kicked it up a notch and became a story of personal growth. Towards the end of the novel Niki realizes "Being in love wasn't just about how you felt about the other person. It was how you felt about yourself when you were with that person. It was knowing, without a doubt, that you were living each day as the best version of yourself." In addition to Niki's self-discovery and the romance between Niki and Sam, the book adds many references to Indian culture including the Diwali holiday. Turns out Diwali is celebrated before Christmas, and the story is told over a year, from one Diwali to the next. At the beginning of the novel Niki admits she doesn't really know what Diwali is. But in India she discovers there are so many ways to celebrate and experience Diwali - both religious and secular. Niki summarizes that "Diwali is the Festival of Lights. The celebration of the goodness in this world over darkness. A holiday that could be whatever anyone wanted it to be." That's convenient. But moving on from that flexible holiday definition, this was an entertaining and enjoyable feel-good story about two likeable people. It was also a story about self discovery, family conflicts, cultural authentication, and reconnecting with your roots.

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