“A Good Indian Wife” by Anne Cherian

Yesterday, I checked out from the library “A Good Indian Wife” by Anne Cherian.  At the moment, I’ve only read a few pages, but it is very readable.

Neel (real name Suneel) went to medical school in the U.S. and became an anesthesiologist in California.  He has a girlfriend of three years, a blonde secretary named Caroline.  Neel’s feelings for her seem to be straight out of the modern dating classic, He’s just not that into you.  For example, he forgets their 3rd anniversary.  Neel is 35 and his family is growing tired of him remaining unmarried.  His family gets him to return to India to visit his grandfather-Neel is told he is very sick and near death.  His mother and aunt, however, plan to get him to India to marry him off.

I admit I don’t like his character much at the moment, but hopefully that will change.

Leila seems more likable.  She is 30 years old, teaches literature, and loves to write stories.  She has two younger sisters, Kila who is 8 years old, and Indy who is in her mid-20s.  Leila has seen many suitors come and go.  She had one indiscretion around age 20, but gets passed over because her family cannot offer a dowry.  

The book does touch a lot on the theme of family.  Early on, Cherian writes from Neel’s perspective, “In India it was always family above self, with no one considering his difficulties”. 

On the trip back to India, Neel sits near a mixed couple.  The husband is Indian and the wife is Italian, although at first Neel thinks the wife is also Indian.  He overhears the husband saying, “It is difficult to be neither fish nor fowl in America, and I told Lisa our daughter would be more accepted back home.  I mean, when the British came, our kings greeted them with open arms.  America is not such a welcoming country.” Mr. Rolex agreed, but Neel thought the man was a simpleton.” 

I’m curious to find out what happens once Neel and Leila meet.  What are their first impressions?  How will Caroline deal with it all?  What kind of marriage do Neel and Leila create for themselves? 

Article by Dinesh Ramde  about the book.  Ramde rates the book a B+.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pauline
    Sep 13, 2008 @ 07:57:06

    I read this book and though I enjoyed it I did feel a little bad for the American g/f. It’s so stereotypical of how Indians in India seem to feel about American women , like money grubbing,loose, homewreckers etc (in my experiences ). I was rooting for the Indian wife to win out but her
    hubby was a jerk if you ask me.
    Did you finish it?


  2. minnesotameetskarnataka
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 13:01:16

    Hi Pauline,

    I did finish the book. I’d rate it a C+ (readable, but shallow).

    Like you, I was disappointed at the characterizations of white American women. I don’t think that even the white wife of the husband’s best friend was characterized that positively.

    There were two mixed matches that “worked” in the book, but all seemed to have Indians who were considered less than perfectly attractive by Indian standards (too dark girl, pudgy guy) married to Americans fascinated by their exoticness. That disappointed me.

    I do agree–the husband was a complete jerk.


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