This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun.
Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.
For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.
But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding.
What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated.
Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for a honest review
As a South Asian who grew up outside of the community and looking to learn about her own roots, Sari, Not Sari's premise spoke to me on a deeply personal level, but that's about as far as it went.
Manny is a successful CEO of Breakup, a company that she built from the ground up. Her expertise is in relationships and specifically how to help people end relationships cordially with minimal damage when those relationships come to the end of the road. It's a lucrative business and people are noticing as evidenced by articles and tv interviews. A recent write up in a high-profile magazine is supposed to catapult the company into the stratosphere, but the excitement is dimmed when Manny sees that they've photoshopped her cover to make her lighter-skinned. Being that her darker skin tone is one of the few things she feels ties her to her Indian heritage, it sends her into a frenzy, and now she wants to find out more about the culture she comes from.
You know, I get all of this because I feel it, too. It's just that I found the way Manny goes about it to be a head scratcher. She agrees to help Sammy, a client and fellow South Indian, with a temporary breakup on the condition that she accompany him to his family's wedding so she can learn all about everything Indian. I have two reactions to this. One, the idea that attending a weeklong wedding celebration is enough to learn all about a culture that's as diverse as the number of dialects within the Indian subcontinent is a faulty one. Two, one of her best friends and colleague, Anjali is Indian so it makes no sense to me that she'd never sought to connect to the culture through their longtime friendship. But going to a wedding with someone she barely knows will solve her identity crisis problem. See? Head scratcher.
Full disclosure - I started Sari, Not Sari with the sincere hope of finding something meaningful for myself through Manny's experience, but it all fell flat from the beginning. I wasn't into their romance, either. I would've liked to see Manny learn about her family's roots and culture through genuine connection outside of a wedding celebration. Instead, she only saw the showy parts, the ostentatious celebratory stuff that's all surface level and part of what she's seeking. It's a small fraction of a rich culture and that's all she takes from it to feel fully Indian. It didn't jibe with me in the least.
What I was hoping for and what I read were two completely different things. Upon reflection, I think I wanted the content of Sari, Not Sari to be more women's fiction, and in a rom-com format there's only so much deep-diving that can happen into a question as loaded as "What does being Indian mean?". I'm disappointed this didn't work out for me but I think this story works for a reader who wants to get lost in the joyful experience of an Indian wedding.