One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it.
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her...
As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Sometimes, trying to please the people we love while also staying true to ourselves puts us on a collision course with them. When Raina Anand agrees to let her grandmother find her a husband, chaos ensues: Raina’s ex reappears and complicates things, and her nani won’t take no for an answer when it comes to her list of preapproved (but totally undesirable) Indian men. Sonya Lalli’s intriguing and perceptive debut novel won us over with its sweet humor, painfully real family dynamics, and stereotype-busting insights.
Lalli's debut is a skillful exploration of how the younger generation in an immigrant Indian community in Toronto bristles at tradition while discovering comfort and strength in family and community. Raina, 29, works at a multinational bank and agrees to check out a list of eligible Indian men her grandmother has vetted for an arranged marriage. But the bachelors all fall short of Dev, the dashing, globe-trotting banker from Raina's past whom she fell in love with, but who couldn't commit. The pressure mounts as Raina's best-friend Shaya, a pediatric resident, prepares for her own wedding on Raina's 30th birthday to white Catholic pediatrician Julian. After a series of hilarious dating misfires, a desperate Raina lets her grandmother believe she's a lesbian to stop the matchmaking pressure a duplicity that isolates her from her grandmother, Shaya, and Asher, a white groomsman who recognizes Raina as a "lost soul." Raina's ultimate appreciation of her grandmother's loyalty, the joy of her community and culture, and a man with whom she "could be the woman who didn't lose herself to love" helps her claim a life of her own. Lalli's sharp-eyed tale of cross-cultural dating, family heartbreak, the strictures of culture, and the exuberance of love is both universal and timeless.
Entertaining, but not quite a romcom
After seeing the cover and blurb for The Matchmaker's List, I was excited to get my hands on it. It sounded like a fun (oh, those meddling matchmaking grandmothers!) and diverse read. Though I enjoyed the multicultural aspect of the story a lot, and there are plenty of silly and hilarious moments, I wouldn't consider this one truly a romcom. It was much more poignant and polarizing than I anticipated.
Our heroine, Raina, was sadly one of the main reasons why I did not love this book. I can definitely relate to the overwhelming pressures that family, friends, and community can unwittingly place on an individual. Even with this and the sadness surrounding her childhood, I had a hard time sympathizing with Raina because of her behavior throughout the book. I understand that it was part of her character arc to grow and recognize certain truths, but it was frustrating to see an almost 30 year old woman act this way. I don't want to be spoilery, but a good part of the book has her basically being a doormat (I wanted to throat punch Dev so badly!) and then she tells a lie by omission that ends up having HUGE repercussions. There were so many opportunities to come clean and explain, but over and over fear ruled her and she let the lie perpetuate and change lives. The situation with Asher felt forced and I'm a bit skeptical of the declarations that were made given their sporadic history. I really just wanted more from Raina and when she finally did come into her own, it just felt like too little too late.
Something I did love, however, was the overall message of love and acceptance. Yes, this is a romance, but it's more a romance about falling in love with yourself. Loving who you are and recognizing that you are enough exactly as you are. The writing was entertaining, but sometimes too detailed and descriptive for me. Overall I did enjoy Raina's journey and think the book's message will resonate with readers.
*I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book*