Purple Lotus

She Writes. Sept. 2020. 312p. ISBN 9781631527616. pap. $16.95. F
DEBUT The dramatic ups and downs of a young Indian woman’s relationships are the focus of Rao’s first novel, which centers on Tara, whose arranged marriage to an Indian immigrant living in Atlanta isn’t what she expected. Tara was raised in a traditional Indian family in Mangalore, and expects to be a proper wife to Sanjay, even if it took three years after their marriage for him to bring Tara to the States. But Sanjay is distant and wants little to do with his new wife, leaving Tara feeling isolated. She befriends a Russian immigrant named Alyona, who helps her settle into her new American life, but Sanjay disapproves. His controlling behavior shifts to physical and emotional abuse, and Tara makes the difficult choice to leave her marriage, an act of independence that is shameful to her family. Although Tara finds a second chance at love with a man she knew as a teenager, the severed connection with her parents continues to haunt her. Flashbacks to Tara’s youth, where she lived with her grandparents and a schizophrenic uncle while her parents and younger brother lived in Dubai, are interspersed throughout the book, revealing deep truths about Tara’s hopes and fears.
VERDICT This thoughtful, moving novel will appeal to readers who enjoy stories that explore the inner lives of women who are pushing against societal expectations.
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