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Since I got married recently, I thought I’d pick up a book with a wedding component for my latest read. Sari, Not Sari had been sitting on my NetGalley shelf for a while, having originally been requested due to the bright, eyecatching cover and the delightful title. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this digital review copy in exchange for my honest review.
The story follows CEO Manny Dogra, who runs a company called Breakup which specializes in helping people end their relatioships. Permanently. She lost both of her parents and realizes she never took the chance to connect with her (their) culture while they were around, which leads her to bend her own rules to make a deal with an Indian client who wants to temporarily breakup with his white girlfriend to attend a family wedding.
Before we get into my review, I’d like to acknowledge that there are a good handful of reviews from people of Indian heritage on Goodreads which note problematic elements of this book’s treatment of Indian culture that I, as a white reviewer, did not pick up on. I will focus on the elements of the story I personally liked or disliked since that is what I am able to speak to, but encourage you to consider these reviews before picking up this book.
What I Liked
Manny’s voice at the start of the book, the confidence with which she approaches her work, really pulled me into the story. I loved seeing a woman who enjoys her career and has built a life for herself, and I was excited to see her story develop.
I also really liked the character of her coffee shop owner friend, who pushes her to connect more with her heritage.
The descriptions of food and clothing were beautiful, as well, and I enjoyed reading about Manny’s efforts to connect to her roots and honor the memory of her parents.
What I Didn’t Like
Where this story falls short is in its efforts to tell a love story, which is a pretty big issue since it is billed first and foremost as a romance. Sammy and Manny’s relationship does not feel believable, and many aspects of their story feel a bit like a random selection of tropes thrown together.
Manny’s fiance is solidly the “overly focused career man” caricature without any nuance, leaving the reader to wonder why on earth such a strong woman would be with him. Sammy’s girlfriend isn’t much better, though thankfully we don’t see much of her on the page.
Their relationship develops quickly and without much substance, and I did not feel even a bit invested in it by the end. As the book shifted to focus on this relationship I found myself not wanting to pick it up anymore because I just didn’t buy it.
Ultimately, I think the author wanted to tell a story about a woman who was raised to fit into American culture at the expense of embracing her Indian roots and somehow wound up trying to force it to be a romance when that wasn’t the true heart of the novel. I would have liked the book much better if Manny had broken up with her fiance without needing the impetus of a slapdash love story to do so, but just because she had realized who she was and wanted to be.
I recommend Sari, Not Sari if you enjoy fashion and stories about the complex identity of being raised in America as a child of immigrants. If you’re looking for a well developed love story, though, I can’t recommend this book for that element.
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