Book Review: If Today Be Sweet

Title: If Today be Sweet

Author: Thrity Umrigar

The story is about a Parsi family. The son (Sorab) immigrated to the US after coming to the US as a graduate student. He later marries an American (Caucasian) and settles down in the mid-west.  His mother (Tehmina Sethna) visits the US after her husband’s demise and has to grapple with the decision of where to spend the rest of her life.  She could go back to Mumbai and live by herself or chose to spend the rest of her life in the US with her son, his wife (Susan) and grandson (Cavas).

The bulk of the book deals with the mother’s dilemma and her struggles with life as a widow. The cultural challenges faced by most immigrants of Indian origin (especially parents whose children live in the US) are very well captured. Frequent comparisons are made throughout the book between the western outlook and the traditional Indian views on practically everything. These discussions (often in the mind of the lead character) fit in perfectly with the context of the story and adds depth to the emotional challenges faced by her.  Sohrab’s boss and the part of the story involving the owner of the company and his decision regarding change in leadership seemed a little far-fetched and trivialized. Apart from this, the rest of the story seemed believable and true to life.

This book is one more of the cultural cross-over books.  Unlike most books in this genre that stick to the Indian experience for the most part, this book has a very good blend of mainstream American characters.  The characters of Indian origin in the story interact with the mainstream through most parts of the book. So this book has much more to offer than a conventional “Indian experience” in the US.  Moreover, these interactions blend rather nicely into the story and don’t ever appear forced.

The author is a journalist turned University teacher and it shows in the writing which is all prim and proper except when there is “guy talk”.  The early part of the book tends to be slow (and sometimes boring) but once you survive this, the book is a very enjoyable read.

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