REVIEW: A New Mantra by Sapna Srinivasan
She’s always done what was expected of her. Until…
When 30-year-old Seattle-based Indian housewife Mira Sood is blindsided by her husband’s extramarital affair, her three-year arranged marriage is shattered. Humiliated, heartbroken, near-broke, and facing the united dissension of her orthodox family, Mira is desperate to rebuild her life. She moves in with her rebel cousin, searches for any job that will take her, and impulsively signs up for a half-marathon race. There’s just one problem—Mira’s experience with running starts and ends with running to catch the bus.
With herself as her biggest critic and doubter, Mira commits to the race and is assisted by entrepreneur Andy Fitzgerald, a handsome, elite marathoner who helps her create a training schedule and personal goals. When the lines of friendship begin to blur, Mira realizes she’s facing an even bigger challenge.
Can Mira embrace her stronger, more independent self—risking another heartbreak and disappointing her family—or will she once again play it too safe and let the possibility of happiness slip away?
Dear Ms. Srinivasan,
I was excited to see a book about an immigrant Indian-American woman written by an immigrant Indian-American woman which deals with a woman facing divorce and how she’s going to come back from that. I enjoyed the sections showing Mira’s tight family and their traditions. I also liked the fact that along the way, we saw Mira find herself but the trail (word chosen for a reason) was a long slog.
After her asshat husband tells Mira about his affair and that he wants a divorce – something shocking and truly scandalous in their Punjabi-Indian society – Mira collapses. I totally get that she is blindsided and unable to function for days. She’s been raised to be a dutiful daughter and has yielded to family pressure to turn over all financials and decisions to Jay, hasn’t worked since her wedding, nor made any friendships in her new country. Luckily she did get a green card via the Asshat before he left. Now what does she do?
Her second bit of luck is that she has a rebellious cousin willing to let Mira stay in her apartment until Mira can get a job. After a disastrous job interview that shows Mira she’s still got some processing to do regarding her thoughts on Jay’s actions, she finds work in an Indian grocery. Her third bit of luck is running into (pun intended) a handsome marathoner who is almost too good to be true and who immediately volunteers to help her train for the half marathon she signed up for. Will she find who she is, defy her family, and make it across the finish line?
I feel that this book is more women’s fiction than romance. There is a romance thread but it takes a long time to get going, is mainly – though not totally – kisses, and we never get Andy’s viewpoint. The action, even the scenes with Mira and Andy, focuses on running. There is a lot of running. Way too much running. I understand that this is Mira’s way of finding herself, overcoming her self doubt, and moving (literally) past her painful marriage but – whoa – too much running. The “final conflict” was overblown and also dragged out.
The descriptions of the delicious food that Mira makes also gets a bit repetitive. I was drooling but it was a lot of the same again. Then there is the massive amount of family pressure that Mira is subjected to after she has done everything they ask and the Asshat leaves her. This was difficult for me to read as I felt for Mira but from discussions with Indian-American people I know, I realize the pressures are real. She is supposed to work to get him back and when he finally does make an appearance, she is supposed to forgive him his asshatery for the good of the family reputation. Honestly, I would have snapped by this point and can totally understand Mira’s rebellious cousin’s attitude.
This is another book I wanted to like far more than I did. Had I known it had less romance and I could have adjusted my expectations, I think I would have liked it more. Instead there was too much running, training, cooking, and overbearing family and not enough of Andy and Mira building a relationship that isn’t centered around trails, shoes, and running posture. It’s also a debut book with some over flowery writing (at one point Andy is described as running his fingers through his “majestic brown hair”). The next entry in the series, which I’m looking forward to, focuses on Mira’s rebellious cousin, whom I liked a lot. C