“Let me see,” she demanded as she crouched next to me. “Ooh did you ask for the butterflies?”
“I did.” When I picked the design, I had thought back to a picture I’d seen of my mother in mehndi when she was a teenager, her palms decorated with small butterflies.
“Cool. Rebirth and change. I like it. It will be even more beautiful once the colour settles.” Manisha got up and headed to the bar.
“That’s what the butterflies represent, my dear. A change. A change within you,” the henna artist said.
She was right. I was the butterfly who had gotten my own bright new wings and was now shimmering with gorgeous colours.
Sari not Sari is a fun debut filled with food and family.
Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.
For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.
But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding.
What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated.
I really wanted to love this book: the idea is so fun and has so much possibility: a tech CEO not in touch with her history has to fake date her way into a big noisy Indian wedding. The food and festivity scenes were hands down my favourite parts of the book. But the book didn’t quite hit all the marks for me.
Let’s start with the good stuff: Sonya is a vivid writer whose food scenes made my mouth water. Her writing style was fun, vivid, and drama-filled: I felt like I was watching a Bollywood movie while reading. I also really liked the main characters Manny and Sammy. They are funny and witty and grow with each other. I love a good fake-relationship and these two had an interesting reason to be in a fake relationship with each other. Through this dynamic we got to see the two of them grow and open up to each other, and therefore us the reader. I loved the banter between the two of them and their scenes really stole the show for me.
However, the rest of the characters in the book felt so one dimensional to me: a workaholic who can only engage if someone is discussing work. Her privileged wealthy in-laws don’t even know what culture she’s from – they think she’s Spanish, and her friends seem to just tick a box: the gay friend, the Indian friend etc.
The hook in the book, the part that makes Manny re-evaluate her whole life, didn’t feel big enough. It was a small issue seemingly (the big reason why it was a huge issue and a red flag with her fiancé wasn’t fully exposed until the end) and I wish it had been expanded earlier to drive the action and behaviour of Manny.
I think another aspect of the book that may not sit well with readers is the type of company that Manny runs: a breakup company that specializes in ending relationships for people. I actually really liked it as I thought it was an interesting idea that was the polar opposite of the more typical wedding planning, matchmaking industry fake relationship books that I’ve read.
All in all, I thought this was a unique idea for a romantic comedy. I look forward to reading more from Sonya.
Hear what Sonya herself has to say about Sari Not Sari when she discusses it and more at our Romance According to Sonya Singh Event
Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.