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. (May)
"Enchanting! Mukherjee's pitch-perfect ear for character and mood and her story-telling gifts capture the exhilarating restlessness of a young Indian woman's pursuit of happiness. Miss New India illuminates as brilliantly as it entertains."
"A tightly woven narrative about naïvete and personal growth in contemporary India...Mukherjee explores Anjali's issues with understanding and sympathy."
"Each character fascinates, and every detail glints with irony and intent, as Mukherjee brilliantly choreographs her compelling protagonist's struggles against betrayal, violence, and corruption in a dazzling plot."
The acclaimed author of The Tree Bride explores the clash between traditional and contemporary India in this story of a young woman from the provinces trying to make her way in the booming city of Bangalore. Anjali Bose, the daughter of a railway clerk, is facing a disastrous arranged marriage. In a long and harrowing bus journey south, she flees her provincial town in northern India, hoping to find work in a call center in Bangalore. Here, Anjali's story takes as many surprising twists and turns as a Dickens novel; she even finds lodging in a decaying old mansion owned by Bangalore's version of Miss Havisham. VERDICT With its fast-paced story and sympathetic portrayal of a young woman trying to make it on her own against all odds, this novel is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Indian and Indian American fiction. For those new to the genre, Anjali's story is a good place to start. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/10.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
A tightly woven narrative about naïvete and personal growth in contemporary India.
The title refers to Anjali Bose, who's trying to delicately balance her identity between the "old" India of her parents and the "new" (and more Westernized) India of her peers. Nineteen-year-old Anjali is from Gauripur, in Bihar province, a not-very-happening place. Her dissatisfaction and boredom are compounded by her lackluster lower-middle-class household, for her father wants to arrange a marriage for his daughter, and Anjali has little patience for this hoary convention. Moreover, her father's track record is unprepossessing, for Anjali's only slightly older sister has been through the process and is already divorced. Despite her father's trotting out more than 75 possible candidates, Anjali has found no one she likes or respects. It's conceivable that Anjali herself is part of the problem, for she wants far more than either her family or her environment can give her. And when one seemingly ideal candidate for the position of husband rapes her, Anjali is out of there. After a brief stop at the apartment of her unsympathetic sister, and with the urging of ex-pat English teacher Peter Champion, she heads off to Bangalore to test her English-speaking skills in the burgeoning service industry being outsourced to that teeming city. Within 24 hours of her arrival, she has come in contact with a more diverse group of people than she had met in her entire life. Armed with an introduction (from Peter) to Minnie Bagehot's boarding house, she meets the seductive Husseina, the Christian Tookie from Goa, and the eccentric "Mad Minnie" herself. Despite a two-week cram course in colloquial English, Anjali fails (in a hilarious way from the reader's perspective) to land a job. And she faces other reality checks as well, including being dragged into the local police station and being completely duped by Husseina.
Mukherjee explores Anjali's issues with understanding and sympathy.