If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi

Neel Patel. Flatiron, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-18319-4
The 11 seemingly casual and quietly feverish stories in Patel’s debut follow the plight of young first- or second-generation Indian-Americans. Some characters are gay and some straight, but most of them have grown up in suburban Midwest towns where they are viewed as vaguely exotic as, in an effort to find love, they struggle to please or break away from their families. Expected to become doctors or lawyers, they often rebel in sneaky or ineffective ways. In the wrenching “Just a Friend,” 22-year-old bartender Jonathan falls for, and completely fails to understand, the much older, anxious immigrant Ashwin, who wears expensive clothes and conceals or lies about most of the details of his life. In the title story, the narrator and his older brother, Deepak, move from a close friendship to a state of war over the decades, as Deepak flunks out of a “marginally rated college,” joining his disappointed parents in running the motel they own, while the narrator goes to medical school. “World Famous” is told from the point of view of a member of an ill-fated couple: Ankur, a medical student from a wealthy family, is attracted to his former high school classmate Anjali, whose family is upwardly aspiring, but their relationship is doomed because of their class discrepancy. Patel has a knack for depicting the gap between how characters experience their lives and how they are expected to be seen—and how those gaps can widen into life-changing fractures. This is a perceptive, moving collection. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 07/10/2018
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-250-18321-7
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