cover image Mother Land

Mother Land

Leah Franqui. Morrow, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-0629-3884-8

Franqui’s engaging outing (after America for Beginners) follows Rachel Meyer and husband Dhruv Aggarwal after their quick marriage and move from New York to Mumbai. Rachel’s struggles to adapt to life in India (she fails to pronounce basic Hindi words and cannot do the shopping) are compounded by her fierce independence, and she misses the convenience of her old life. After she discovers her mother-in-law, Swati, at their door, having left her home in Kolkata and her husband of 41 years, Rachel and Dhruv’s relationship begins to strain. Swati believes she can help Rachel understand India, and that in return the couple’s honeymoon glow will rub off on her. Meanwhile, Swati causes friction between the newlyweds by insisting a cleaning person come multiple times a day, and by hiring a cook despite Rachel’s interest in cooking. Rachel is aghast when Dhruv leaves her behind with Swati for a monthlong business trip. With Rachel’s encouragement, Swati adopts a modern clothing style, which increases her confidence and self-assertion when a man is sent to bring her back to Kolkata. While Rachel’s digressive, dishy narration and keen eye for cultural details contrast with her initial bumbling, Franqui smartly shows how Rachel recognizes her limits. The women’s credible learning from each other makes this a worthy tale of bridging a cultural divide. Agent: Julia Kardon, Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency. (July)