A savvy former street child working at a law office in Mumbai fights for redemption and a chance to live life on her own terms in this “smart, haunting, and compulsively readable” (Amy Jones, author of We’re All in This Together) debut novel about fortune and survival.
“A heartbreaking yet hopeful story about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable odds.”—Etaf Rum, New York Times bestselling author of A Woman Is No Man
With a sharp wit and sharper tongue, twenty-three-year old Rakhi Kumar is nobody’s fool. Sure, she lives alone in a slum and works as a lowly office assistant for the renowned lawyer, Gauri Verma, who gave her a fresh start. But she’s come a long way from her childhood on the streets of Mumbai. Most important, she’s busy enough to distract herself from the nightmares of a grisly childhood incident that led to the disappearance of her best friend.
Fiercely intelligent, Rakhi could be doing so much more than making chai, but she allows herself to be underestimated by her colleagues at Justice For All, Gauri’s cash-strapped rights law office. These days, it’s becoming harder for Rakhi to keep her head down as Gauri desperately tries to save her organization by recruiting former Bollywood actress and infamous nineties “thong girl,” Rubina Mansoor, to be their celebrity ambassador. But not all money is good money. Convincing Gauri to make increasingly brash moves, Rubina demands an internship for a young family friend, Harvard-bound graduate student, Alex Lalwani-Diamond. An ambitious, naïve rich kid with a savior complex, Alex persuades Rakhi to show him “the real India.” In exchange, he’ll do something to further Rakhi’s dreams, in a transaction that seems harmless, at ﬁrst.
As old guilt and new aspirations collide, everything Rakhi once knew to be true is set ablaze. And as the stakes mount, she will come face-to-face with the difficult choices and moral compromises one must make in pursuit of self-preservation, and ultimately, survival. Such Big Dreams is a moving, smart, and arrestingly clever look at the cost of reclaiming one’s story.
Patel's riveting debut examines the exploitive class structure in Mumbai and the pitfalls for those on the lower rung. Rakhi Kumar, a former street child, now works as the assistant to Gauri Verma, executive director of a human rights NGO who took Rakhi out of the Asha Home for Destitute Girls into a decent life. Burdened by the favor, Rakhi waits on Gauri hand and foot while performing menial tasks and overlooking the condescending treatment she consistently receives at the office. Repeatedly undermined, especially by interns visiting from foreign countries, Rakhi is surprised when Alex Lalwani-Diamond, a Harvard-bound Canadian intern, begins to seek her opinions and expertise as a local. Soon an unlikely friendship develops, and Alex encourages Rakhi to apply for college, offering to help with applications in exchange for a tour of the "Real India." Meanwhile, Gauri's NGO struggles financially and she surprises everyone by forming an alliance with Rubina Mansoor, a former Bollywood actor looking to become relevant again. Organizational dissent ensues, loyalties are tested, and as Rakhi's past catches up to her, she discovers the cost of placing faith in others and chasing borrowed dreams. With a captivating arc and solid character development, the story highlights the impact of greed in a poverty-stricken Mumbai. It's a powerful debut.
So much sadness, this story hurt my heart, although the main character persevered through out it all. The descriptive conditions and scenery is excellent and pulls the reader into the heart of poverty in all its variants. So much disappointment does not tamp the spirit of Rakhi, who throughout this story does her best to move on and ultimately affects the lives of others around her with hard found generosity. . Good debut book. A definite addition to your TBR list.