Syal (Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee) tackles family drama and the new India in one fell swoop. Second-generation British Indian Shyama never really imagined she’d have another child after her first marriage ended in divorce. But now the 48-year-old salon owner and her much-younger boyfriend, Toby, are fixated on having a baby, much to the annoyance of Shyama’s college-aged daughter, Tara. When IVF treatments fail, the couple turns to surrogacy, an option that is much more affordable in India than elsewhere in the world. But Toby and Shyama’s pursuit of parenthood is complicated not only by Tara’s personal crises and the latest chapter in Shyama’s parents’ Dickensian legal battles over New Delhi real estate, but also by their ethically nebulous personal involvement with the surrogate mother, Mala. Narrated primarily from Shyama’s point of view, with occasional glimpses into other characters’ outlooks, this ambitious novel offers some interesting insights into India’s changing social climate, particularly its intersections with class and gender. But in trying to be a romance, an intergenerational saga, and political novel, it outreaches its grasp. Agent: Georgia Garrett, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/2016 Release date: 06/14/2016 Genre: Fiction
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