BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Such Big Dreams’ by Reema Patel

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it.

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

As Americans become better acquainted with global authors, novels by Indian authors have received much attention and acclaim, especially when the characters are Desi (Indian-Americans).

This novel, set in Mumbai, just as fine as the acclaimed “A Burning” by Megha Majumdar, is narrated by Rakhi, a 23-year-old orphaned  “officewalla” at who has been mentored by Gauri Ma’am, a Mumbai civil rights attorney who runs an organization called Justice For All. Rakhi was only a young girl when she ran away from her village after her parents were killed in a car accident, and she joined a street gang headed up by Babloo, until Gauri Ma’am took her up.

Rakhi’s trajectory was changed when she was sent off to a religious school, where she learned to read and write Hindi and English. Feeling stifled by her mundane duties at Justice For All, and yearning for a life outside the crowded, destitute neighborhood where she shares a hut, Rakhi is mentored again, this time by a firanghi, a half-white graduate student from America, who encourages her to apply for a job at new luxury hotel.

Rakhi is no angel of the slums — she is wholly self-interested and a climber. But when a devastating fire in her slum is ignored by authorities, she wrestles against all of her mentors and strikes out on her own path.

The writing here is accomplished and the ending is particularly satisfying.

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