Title: Corner Shop
Author: Roopa Farooki
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Corner Shop is the story of one family and three generations of the Khalil family. Delphine has fallen out of love with her husband Jinan and is spending more and more time with her father-in-law, Zaki. Much older than Jinan, Delphine originally had a relationship with Zaki before marrying his son years later. Delphine and Jinan’s son, Lucky, has vivid dreams of playing soccer for England, and perhaps even winning the World Cup for them. As each of these people move forward with their lives, they must question what they want, and what price they are willing to pay to achieve their dreams.
I immensely enjoyed Roopa Farooki’s novel Half Life, so I was eager to delve into Corner Shop to read about the Khalil family, with all its problems and idiosyncrasies. Corner Shop didn’t quite have the drama of Half Life; it was much breezier, yet serious in its own ways and in its underlying message.
Delphine was the character who most appealed to me, which I found somewhat strange. I expected to dislike her, given that it was clear where her “spending more time” with Zaki might lead from the very beginning of the book. However, I found myself sympathetic, able to understand why she felt torn. She had given up everything to raise Lucky, and was thrilled to do so. But now that he was older and had dreams of his own, she felt lost and bereft, and it seemed like Jinan didn’t notice or care too much. Zaki, on the other hand, had plenty of time for her, as Delphine was always very important to him.
The parallel story of Lucky was also very interesting, as well as the message – what happens when you get exactly what you want, when everything you’ve ever dreamed of comes true at a young age? What happens then? Though I feel that this question took a little too long to come to fruition, as there wasn’t much time to discuss the ramifications, it lingers over the entire novel. Whether it’s Delphine, Lucky or Zaki, the novel is about the unintended consequences of achieving your dreams.
Corner Shop wasn’t without its flaws though. The book splits off with Zaki’s story towards the end, and it just didn’t make sense to me. Additionally, though I was interested in the characters, I never really connected with them like I’d hope. Also, the entire book just seemed disjointed and convoluted at times. Finally, the ending was also a bit of a disappointment. That’s not to say that this book isn’t worth reading at all; I did enjoy it. It’s just that these issues did really jump out at me as I was reading the book, so I wanted to at least mention them.
While it wasn’t quite as compelling as Half Life, Corner Shop was an interesting family drama that I did enjoy. I am looking forward to reading Bitter Sweets, Farooki’s debut novel, next.