Book Review: Sisters of the Sari – Brenda L. Baker

Title: Sisters of the Sari
Author: Brenda L. Baker
ISBN: 9780451233219
Pages: 352
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Summary:

When Kiria Langdon, the CEO of a popular video game company, decides to travel to India, she doesn’t want the glitz and glamour – she wants to see real India. She travels to Chennai, a city in Southern India, where she meets a woman named Santoshi. Santoshi is a former slave living at a homeless shelter in appalling conditions. Inspired to help women in need, Kiria decides to build a home for women, with Santoshi’s help.

Review:

When I first heard about Sisters of the Sari, I was intrigued.  I knew that the author, Brenda L. Baker, had lived in India and so I hoped that the main character’s experiences would ring true.  Additionally, having seen the soul-crushing poverty of urban India, I could understand Baker’s desire to write a book about a woman with no limits who decided to help in the most grandiose of ways.

Baker’s novel does highlight many of the problems and frustrations of modern-day India.  From the sheer poverty to dowry and mother/daughter-in-law issues to preference for sons, Sisters of the Sari does not shy away from the more difficult parts of modern Indian culture.  It’s interesting to see these problems through Western eyes, from someone who isn’t familiar with the culture upon arriving in India.

However, I also had some issues with Sisters of the Sari that I couldn’t get past while reading.  The book was very choppy and random – characters would jump situations from one paragraph to another. The book would sometimes be in first person, sometimes in third, with no warning. At first I thought it was just a narrator shift, with Kiria in first person, until I read some chapters where the narrator was Kiria, yet it was in third person – I found this to be confusing. 

There were also way too many plotlines, and the book would jump between each too quickly and randomly. For example, ::minor spoiler:: at one point early in the book, it’s revealed that Kiria gave a son up for adoption. This son, now grown, makes contact with Kiria. ::end spoiler:: To me, this storyline had no real relevance to the overall narrative. There were many instances of this, trying to do too much in one book, and it made the novel clunky.

I also had problems with Kiria over the course of the novel. From what I understood from the description of the book, it was supposed to be about Kiria thinking she would magnanimously change the lives of these poor Indian women, and instead, Santoshi changing Kiria’s life. However, I didn’t see that come across in the book.  I didn’t feel like Kiria changed very much, and she continuously discussed how she was trying to help Santoshi, and getting herself in messes because of it. At one point, Kiria even lists out the things she’s done to help Santoshi – it just left a bad taste in my mouth. I came into this novel thinking that there would be an east meets west balance, but instead it just seemed to focus on the darker sides of India.

In the end, Sisters of the Sari just didn’t work for me.  I really appreciated what Baker tried to do, but I ended up confused and a little put out by quotes like “Let’s face it. India is practically synonymous with poverty.” If you’re looking for an introduction to some issues of India through the eyes of a Westerner wanting to help, this might be a good book to pick up, but if you’re well versed in South Asian literature, I’d choose another novel.

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Comments

  1. Oh no… I have this one on my list to read in the neaer future. I’m still going to give it a try though. Thank you for the heads-up

  2. Oh no… I have this one on my list to read in the neaer future. I’m still going to give it a try though. Thank you for the heads-up

  3. With all the POV switching, it sounds like the book may have needed a more stringent editor. I also don’t like that quote about India being synonymous with poverty. That sort of makes me a little angry. I don’t think I will be reading this book, but from the summary that you posted, it sounds like this book had a lot of wasted potential. Thanks for being so honest in your review. You saved me some money.

  4. With all the POV switching, it sounds like the book may have needed a more stringent editor. I also don’t like that quote about India being synonymous with poverty. That sort of makes me a little angry. I don’t think I will be reading this book, but from the summary that you posted, it sounds like this book had a lot of wasted potential. Thanks for being so honest in your review. You saved me some money.

  5. I suspect this book is not for me.

  6. I suspect this book is not for me.

  7. Pretty much agree with you wholeheartedly on this one.

  8. Pretty much agree with you wholeheartedly on this one.

  9. Interesting. I appreciated this detailed review of why it didn’t work for you.

    I had been interested in reviewing this on 5 Minutes for Books, but Elizabeth end up getting it. I usually fall in line with your thoughts, so now I’m glad she got it and I didn’t.

    She actually really enjoyed it, and we have a giveaway running too, so if anyone wants to see an alternate opinion they can check out Elizabeth’s review and giveaway.

  10. Interesting. I appreciated this detailed review of why it didn’t work for you.

    I had been interested in reviewing this on 5 Minutes for Books, but Elizabeth end up getting it. I usually fall in line with your thoughts, so now I’m glad she got it and I didn’t.

    She actually really enjoyed it, and we have a giveaway running too, so if anyone wants to see an alternate opinion they can check out Elizabeth’s review and giveaway.

  11. I really enjoyed the book and have recommended it many times to others. Sorry it wasn’t that way for you.

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