Title: The Sari Shop Widow
Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents’ sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison’s bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling…
To the rescue comes Anjali’s wealthy, dictatorial Uncle Jeevan and his business partner, Rishi Shah—a mysterious Londoner, complete with British accent, cool gray eyes, and skin so fair it makes it hard to believe he’s Indian. Rishi’s cool, foreign demeanor triggers distrust in Anjali and her mother. But for Anjali, he also stirs something else, a powerful attraction she hasn’t felt in a decade. And the feeling is mutual…
Love disappointed Anjali once before and she’s vowed to live without it—though Rishi is slowly melting her resolve and, as the shop regains its footing, gaining her trust. But when a secret from Rishi’s past is revealed, Anjali must turn to her family and her strong cultural upbringing to guide her in finding the truth…
I’ve really enjoyed Shobhan Bantwal’s books. Her novels The Dowry Bride and The Forbidden Daughter [review] both dealt with controversial subjects in Indian society. They were engaging novels that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, so when I heard she had another novel coming out, I couldn’t resist it! The Sari Shop Widow is lighter in tone than Bantwal’s previous books, but it’s just as captivating.
I absolutely loved the character of Anjali. She was smart and savvy, a real role model for younger women, especially Indian girls. Though she had a breakdown after her husband died, she rebuilt her life, pouring her energy into something productive. It was great to see her declare that her life was not over, even though her husband had died. I also liked how vulnerable Anjali was. I could feel her anguish at the prospect of losing her shop. I could feel her anger at the thought that outsiders might be coming in and taking it over. Bantwal did a great job of developing Anjali and making her seem like a real person
I also appreciated how modern The Sari Shop Widow is. A lot of stories about Indians set in America tend to be fantasy stories in some ways – Indians residing in the United States, but living exactly as they would have if they had stayed in India. When you live in a foreign country, that culture will rub off on you. I liked that Bantwal incorporated both the traditional and the modern in this novel. For example, Anjali lives with her parents even though she is a thirty-seven year old widow, though there are also some practical reasons for that. However, Anjali also has a life of her own, one that she keeps secret from her parents. It’s a delicate balance that takes a deft hand to achieve, and Bantwal does it well.
The story of The Sari Shop Widow is a bit of a fairy tale, but in a good way. I loved how Rishi came in as a knight in shining armor in order to save the shop, but Anjali wasn’t having any of it. It really reinforced the idea that she is a modern woman and wanted to be saved through her own hard work, not rescued by some guy she doesn’t know. Though the story focuses much more on Anjali’s development rather than the saving the store, I enjoyed reading about how they turned the shop around. I would have love more details on it.
The Sari Shop Widow was a book I simply couldn’t put down. It was fun and easy to read; I felt like the pages flew by. This is a great book for a lot of different audiences because it incorporates so many different genres – I highly recommend it!