Anjali Bose’s prospects don’t look great. Born into a traditional lower-middle‑class family, she lives in a backwater town with only an arranged marriage on the horizon. But her ambition, charm, and fluency in language do not go unnoticed by her charismatic and influential expat teacher Peter Champion. And champion her he does, both to powerful people who can help her along the way and to Anjali herself, stirring in her a desire to take charge of her own destiny. So she sets off to Bangalore, India’s fastest‑growing metropolis, and soon falls in with an audacious and ambitious crowd of young people, who have learned how to sound American by watching shows like Seinfeld in order to get jobs in call centers, where they quickly out‑earn their parents. And it is in this high‑tech city where Anjali — suddenly free of the confines of class, caste, and gender — is able to confront her past and reinvent herself. Of course, the seductive pull of life in the New India does not come without a dark side . . .
Twenty-first-century India is a strange juxtaposition of the old and the new, the east and the west, as shown in this draggy novel from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Mukherjee (The Tree Bride). While most young women still wind up married before they reach their 20s, "hobbled by saris, carrying infants," Anjali Bose, a 19-year-old college student who prefers to be called Angela ("or better yet, Angie"), is lucky to have a patron in her former high school teacher, American Peter Champion, who encourages and enables her to leave smalltown Gauripur for Bangalore, the dot-com and call-center capital of India. Angie's departure, however, is delayed so that she can go through the full extent of the horrors of old-fashioned Indian matchmaking and worse when one of the prospective grooms forces himself on her. In Bangalore, Angie can change herself, but darker events lurk on the horizon. This is a curiously unfulfilling book, as Angie drifts into events and out of them, never quite taking charge of her destiny.