Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Sisters of the Sari

Summary: A debut novel about an American woman and an Indian woman who are about to dramatically change each other's lives-along with the lives of those around them.

While vacationing in India, Kiria Langdon, the opinionated and driven CEO of a major company, meets Santoshi, a former slave who now works as a cleaning lady and lives in a shelter for homeless women in Chennai. Appalled by the conditions in the shelter, Kiria becomes obsessed with the idea of building decent housing for poor working women in India. Santoshi reluctantly agrees to help, even though she thinks Kiria's ideas are too crazy to succeed.

Embarking on a rich journey of personal discovery, both women will learn invaluable lessons about themselves as they forge a powerful bond of sisterhood across the barriers of language and culture-a bond that makes anything possible. -- NAL

I don't want to sound shallow because I do enjoy books that take place in India, but I decided to read SISTERS OF THE SARI by Brenda L. Baker because of the gorgeous cover. The pink and gold bracelets along with the other bright colors just drew me right in. Plus I'm always a sucker for a book about the strength and beauty of female friendships.

Unfortunately, SISTERS OF THE SARI was just okay for me. I didn't dislike it or have any problems getting through it, but I didn't love it either. Maybe it's a case of wanting (or expecting) something different from the book, but I felt as if there were some other things that I just didn't "get." For example, there were quite a few different story lines with multiple characters, and I felt that the stories seemed somewhat disjointed -- almost choppy. And I thought that some of the stories weren't developed as much as I would have liked. In many ways, I think the author tried to accomplish too much with this book. It's possible that there were enough ideas for a couple of novels within the different stories in SISTERS OF THE SARI.

In addition, I was sometimes confused by how the author decided to tell Kiria's story. Some of the chapters about Kiria were in her first person voice and others were written in third person. I actually found the third person chapters to be almost unsettling, and I much preferred those chapters that were written in Kiria's own voice. In fact, I thought the author did a job good of creating Kiria's character and capturing an authentic voice, and I had to question why she chose to switch back and forth between the two narrative styles.

I don't want to make it sound like this book wasn't entertaining at all because that's definitely not the case. There were quite a few good things about SISTERS OF THE SARI that I did appreciate. First of all, the basic premise of the novel was very intriguing and I loved getting a Westerner's view of India. The author has actually spent some time in India and I think her insight is rather interesting. In addition, I thought the author did a good job of bringing to light the poverty and despair in India. I commend her for focusing on some of the serious problems affecting women in India today and sharing these issues with Western readers. So many of the women in this book faced such hardships and my heart just broke over and over for them.

SISTERS OF THE SARI would make a very interesting book club pick. I think readers will have very different opinions on the novel and some of the themes presented in it; and I always say that these differences make for the best discussions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include adoption, poverty, abuse, repression, guilt, charity, and female friendships.

While I did have a few issues with SISTERS OF THE SARI, I am definitely in the minority opinion. There are lots of very positive review out there, and it's entirely possible that I just was in a lousy mood when I read it. The novel does give an interesting view of India from a Westerner's point of view and it does highlight many of the problems facing India today. If you think you might be interested in these aspects of the novel, I definitely recommend picking it up and deciding for yourself.

If you have read SISTERS OF THE SARI, I'd love to know your opinion. After reading many of the reviews around the blogosphere, I definitely feel like I missed something.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

If you are shallow when it comes to cover shopping, then I am too, and so are tons of people, which is why they are so important! :--) It *is* a great cover! I agree though, I don't like books that go switching around POVs, unless it's an expected schema, like every other chapter or whatever.

bermudaonion said...

It would be interesting to get a Westerner's perspective on India. I'll have to think about this book. I agree with you and Jill that the cover is fabulous. said...

I hadn't heard of Sisters of Sari. It sounds like it has a great premise and I would otherwise think it was a good book based on the synopsis. I am currently reading Shantaram which is set in India. It is really good, towering near 950 pages though. But thankfully, I'm reading with a group, so it doesn't seem as taxing.

Thanks for the review.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I just read another review yesterday that reflected the same sentiment about this book. The book cover is gorgeous, though.

Unknown said...

I liked the book, but the switching from 1st to 3rd person each chapter was strange.