cover image Such Big Dreams

Such Big Dreams

Reema Patel. Ballantine, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-49950-4

Patel’s riveting debut examines the exploitive class structure in Mumbai and the pitfalls for those on the lower rung. Rakhi Kumar, a former street child, now works as the assistant to Gauri Verma, executive director of a human rights NGO who took Rakhi out of the Asha Home for Destitute Girls into a decent life. Burdened by the favor, Rakhi waits on Gauri hand and foot while performing menial tasks and overlooking the condescending treatment she consistently receives at the office. Repeatedly undermined, especially by interns visiting from foreign countries, Rakhi is surprised when Alex Lalwani-Diamond, a Harvard-bound Canadian intern, begins to seek her opinions and expertise as a local. Soon an unlikely friendship develops, and Alex encourages Rakhi to apply for college, offering to help with applications in exchange for a tour of the “Real India.” Meanwhile, Gauri’s NGO struggles financially and she surprises everyone by forming an alliance with Rubina Mansoor, a former Bollywood actor looking to become relevant again. Organizational dissent ensues, loyalties are tested, and as Rakhi’s past catches up to her, she discovers the cost of placing faith in others and chasing borrowed dreams. With a captivating arc and solid character development, the story highlights the impact of greed in a poverty-stricken Mumbai. It’s a powerful debut. Agent: Stephanie Sinclair, CookeMcDermid. (Apr.)