REVIEW: A Rebel’s Mantra by Sapna Srinivasan
She’s never done what was expected of her…
Laila Sood has always resisted tradition and her parents’ wishes, from leaving her small town in India and moving to Seattle to start a rock band, to rejecting the groom her parents chose for her arranged marriage. Now twenty-nine, Laila’s band has critical acclaim on the indie scene, but she hasn’t attained her goal that will cement her rock star status—signing with a major L.A. label.
Marriage is the last thing on Laila’s mind when she meets Hari Singh. He’s an Indian mama’s dream—a handsome pediatrician from a rich, well-connected Indian family—and everything Laila’s rejected her entire life. Even worse, sparks fly between them like Diwali fireworks, and though Laila’s aunt is hoping to match Hari with her daughter, Hari is fascinated by Laila. She thinks a few dates will prove that he’s too boring and traditional for her, except Laila only falls harder.
Does Laila still chase her rock star dream, or has Hari shown her a new way to fly her rebel flag that just might be anchored in tradition?
Dear Ms. Srinivasan,
Despite a few issues I had with “A New Mantra,” I wanted to see how that heroine’s cousin was going to handle the pressure from her traditional Indian relatives to conform. Laila had wanted to be a singer from an early age – something that had driven a wedge between her parents and herself. After arriving in Seattle from her Punjabi home, she’s continued to push away the expectations of all the Uncles, Aunties, and cousins while she’d pursued her dreams. But when the Perfect Indian Man appeared on the scene, would she be able to hold out or would Laila decide Hari Singh was worth a compromise?
I really enjoyed the start of this book. Laila was determined to do what she wanted and damn the consequences. The break with her parents hurt her deeply but still wasn’t enough to turn her away from what she wanted. There was still pressure on her though from her father’s older brother and his wife who were now the Head of the Family in Seattle. Laila and her Papaji had always gotten along but Mamaji was a force of nature and their daughter Sahana never missed a chance to snipe at Laila.
Meanwhile Mira and Andy were living the perfect life with an expensive new house and a baby on the way. When the senior Soods arranged a party to introduce Sahana to Hari Singh, a handsome Indian American doctor things really heated up. Hari had been a fan of Laila’s singing for years and despite Laila trying to back off and give (bitchy) Sahana space to win him, Hari soon made it clear he was totally smitten with Laila.
Things sort of slowed down and meandered a bit. Hari turned out to be a bit too good to be true. He was handsome, intelligent, beloved by all at the hospital where he worked, always free to take Laila on a date or have her just drop by at his office to chat. He was totally supportive of her dreams, rich, had a Porsche, loved to cook, and never got angry at any of Laila’s moods. He was like an Indian American Ken doll in a long white lab coat.
Laila was hot, edgy, and totally committed to her dream. I liked her and how she stood up for what she wanted. Then she deliberately took a volunteer position at the hospital in order to expose herself to potential painful emotions in order to channel those into songs. I thought that was in bad taste but, yay, before the book was over Laila realized how awful that was. Growth, I like it in a character. Then, for a while, Laila went back to me, me, me, me.
In a way, I got it. She was after a dream that tons of people would love to have a shot at. The finale of the book took me on a little bit of a conflict ride but that was cleared up a bit too quickly. The ending was happy, everything worked out the best for everyone but it just seemed too easy, too pat, too perfect. The edgy beginning was smoothed out a bit too much. C+