I read an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions are my own. On sale February 15, 2022.
There are a variety of characters, settings, and difficulties at play in these short stories but they share more in common than they are different. Each explores an aspect of or a character of South Indian heritage. Many involve immigrations and the separation that can develop between generations when international immigration occurs. Parent/child relationships, particularly for mothers and children are a featured theme in many of the stories.
That isn’t to say that the stories are monotonous. Each character that Bhanoo evokes comes alive and felt fresh and unique in each new story. We have a widow living in an idealized retirement community, a divorced mother grappling with grief after the loss of her young son, a professor who finds himself disgraced and forced into retirement. Both America and India feature as settings for the stories, sometimes with a story moving back and forth between countries, demonstrating the growing disconnect that so many immigrants find themselves faced with. Frequently there is a longing for home that is never fully realized, even as a character might know that they are in a fortunate position. Sometimes that longing for home is centred around a person, sometimes a physical place, sometimes something more ephemeral.
I can’t speak to how these stories might be read by someone who is either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant but there is a rawness here that felt authentic and honest to me. Bhanoo doesn’t shy away from the complications that love walks, the distance that grows when culture and language and history don’t line up in a single family. She uses the short story form perfectly, capturing vignettes that feel like part of something larger without leaving the reader feeling like there needs to be more. Definitely an author to watch.
5 thoughts on “Book Review: Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo”
Oh this sounds like a good book of short stories! It’s nice when a collection is linked by a few overall things, but still different and unique in each story.
Yes, I really liked that! They all explore similar themes but in different ways and with different characters so it feels very well-rounded at the end.
I’ve read so many books by and about Indians that read the exact same way: miserable marriage with a dominating male head of the house, independent daughter who won’t agree to an arranged marriage and makes dad angry, mother and aunties calling young women fat, sons who want to move to England and study philosophy/English lit/poetry…I’m not sure why they’re all so similar, but I don’t want to read the same tale repeatedly. I found The Namesake totally memorable, and A.M. Blair (fellow book blogger, also lawyer and writer) always puts out a great story about Sri Lankan women. This book sounds interesting, like it covers various facets of life in India and/or another country (Canada? the U.S.?). I’m going to grab a copy if my library has it!
That’s true though I would say that it’s probably a fair portrayal of the issues within South Asian families. My high school friends all seemed to have secret lives they had to hide from their fathers! I liked that in this collection the stories and settings each felt different from the story before and even though a lot of those same issues were repeated, they were examined in different ways.
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