Mother Land

Morrow. Jul. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9780062938848. $27.99. F
After a whirlwind romance and impulsive marriage, thirtysomething Rachel happily leaves her life in New York City to join her husband, Dhruv, in Mumbai, where he has accepted a job with his investment bank for three years. She is eager to explore the wonders of India and expand her love of cooking. Then Swati, Dhruv’s mother, arrives unannounced on their doorstep, saying that she envies the happiness she’s observed in her son’s marriage—a happiness she’s never had. And that’s it; she will be living with them. Rachel appeals to Dhruv for help, but he deflects her pleas as he leaves for Kolkata for a monthlong business trip where, ironically, he stays with his estranged father. The two women are left to their own strong-willed egos, with Swati insisting on imposing her will on Rachel’s household, and Rachel hungering for independence; she explores the open-air food markets and eventually takes a part-time voiceover job as the lead character in a Romanian soap opera. In a lovely, cautious pivot, the two women slowly find common ground in the kitchen and on shopping adventures.
VERDICT Award-winning playwright/novelist Franqui (America for Beginners) has written a beautiful novel featuring nuanced characters struggling to find their way through the landmines of the inevitable culture clashes with surprising, didn’t-see-that-coming moments that carry through to the last page. [See Prepub Alert, 1/15/20.]
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