Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Bantam Books, 2007
Fiction; 432 pgs

Started: 03/18/2007
Completed: 03/25/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: I’m never sure what people want to know when they ask me: “Where are you from?”

Reason for Reading: I entered a publisher’s contest not too long ago and was selected to preview this one.

Comments: Three very different Indian women from very different cultures formed an instant friendship upon their arrival in the United States, pulling together to support each other and hold onto their roots while fitting into their new lives. Kiran, Preity and Rani became friends by default as their mothers’ friendship grew over the years. The girls jokingly came to call their mothers’ the Hindi-Bindi Club. The daughters are now all grown up and settling into their own lives.

Kiran Deshpande is headstrong and independent. She fled from her family years ago after a disagreement and has now decided to return in hopes of mending the fences and to ask advice. Her mother, Meenal who has changed considerably over the past year, wants nothing more than to have her daughter back in her life, but can she be the bridge between her husband and her daughter?

Saroj Chawla appears to have everything. She is a successful businesswoman with a supportive husband and children who are just as successful and content. Or so she thought until her typically doting daughter Preity confronts her about an incident from the past, one that touches upon a painful history that will forever haunt Saroj.

Uma Basu McGuiness learned long ago that she would have to step outside of the prescribed cultural traditions and beliefs, both to lead her own life, but also in raising her daughter, Rani, a free spirit with her own dark demons.

With Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake fresh in my mind, having read it not too long ago, I could not help but find myself comparing it to Monica Pradhan’s novel. Both touch upon the subject of first generation immigrants from India and their American born children, the struggle to find balance between the two cultures, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Likened to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club in blurbs describing the novel, The Hindi-Bindi Club is a story about the friendship, relationships between mother and daughter and finding one’s own way in the world. Although each story in Monica Pradhan’s novel is unique, the stories are interwoven with similar themes and in the friendships between the characters as they too grow and change.

The author ends each chapter with a recipe or two for the characters favorite Indian dishes. It adds a nice touch and will definitely attract recipe lovers out there who enjoy a good book with tasty treats recommendations.

The Hindi-Bindi Club was an entertaining and moving novel. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the characters, being in their lives for the time the author allowed. Each character‘s struggle became my own. I definitely will keep an eye out for this author in the future.

Favorite Part: I was most drawn into the story of Meenal, Kiran and her father, perhaps because there are echoes of their story in my own life. And yet, Uma and Rani’s story also intrigued me. Uma, of all the characters, is perhaps the one I most admire.

Another aspect of the novel that captivated me was the history presented in Saroj and Preity’s story. In recent years, my interest in literature featuring Indian characters and culture regardless of setting has grown, however, I still know very little about the history and various cultures. Saroj’s story is tied into the Partition of India in 1947.

Least Favorite Part: Saroj’s story seemed incomplete to me in the end. I cannot be more specific without giving away spoilers, and so I will leave it at that.

12 comments:

  1. I'm going to have to look for this one at the library. I loved 'The Joy Luck Club' and I adore Indian food. Thanks for the review.

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  2. This does sound quite a bit like Joy Luck Club, but with Indians instead of Chinese. With all the Bollywood craze these days, it's not a surprise that it's spilling over into novels. Will have to look for this.

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  3. Great review! Stories about immigrants always fascinate me and sounds like this is a good one. I'll check it out!

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  4. Ooh, this one sounds interesting! Might want to check it out. Thanks, Wendy!

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  5. Kookie - I hope you enjoy it! You'll have to let me know if you try any of the recipes. :-)

    Karen - It is a lot like Joy Luck Club, I think. I admit that I've gotten swept up in some of the Bollywood craze. I have always been a fan of musicals and so Bollywood flicks seem like a natural draw for me.

    Happy Reader - Thank you! I agree, stories about immigrants are intriguing.

    Melody - If you do read it, I hope you will enjoy it.

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  6. How on earth do you keep up with all your challenges?

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  7. Great review. I liked NameSake and though it didn't hit me as Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories did, I kind of lived Goglo's eperience.

    Will catch this book too!

    Check out these Video Book Reviews!

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  8. I'll have to look for this one. I'm like you....the past year or so, I've been reading a lot of books set in either India, Africa or the Middle East. Guess I'm trying to "get some culture!"

    Nice Review!

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  9. Sarala - It's not always easy, I'll tell you that much. But it sure is fun to try.

    Sylvia - Thank you. I enjoyed The Namesake too and hope to read Lahiri's short stories one of these days. The Hindi-Bindi Club was definitely lighter fare, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

    Stephanie - Thank you! To some extent, I think current events have drawn me to some of these other cultures, but it's also just an interest in stepping outside of my own culture to explore those around me.

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  10. Uh oh, I think I might have to add this one to my wishlist. I love that there are recipes included!

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  11. I have just started reading this book and am debating whether or not to continue. Comparing this book to Jhumpa Lahiri is like comparing Shakespeare to Helen Fielding. The writing is terrible! There are so many parenthetical sentences, one has to wonder is this book had an editor. As a 20 something Indo-Canadian I can relate to many of the situations in the book but I am not sure I can stomach any more awkward definitions and explanations of Indian customs...

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  12. Anonymous - I agree, the two books are completely different. One is literary fiction and this one would probably fall into the chicklit category. I do think that the books had common themes, however, and having read them within the same time period, I couldn't help but make a comparison on that point.

    Not every book is going to appeal to everyone. Maybe this is just not the book for you.

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