I could see Invisible Lives, by Anjali Banerjee, as a Bollywood movie. Not one of those heavy shows about the criminal underworld or the stern father forbidding his daughter to marry her one true love, but a light, romantic comedy. I can even imagine where the musical numbers would fit into the plot.
This is the sort of book you would take with you to the beach or cottage, for summer reading. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, doesn’t mire you in deep, philosophical thought, and has a happy ending. Everything you’d want in a summer book, or a Bollywood romance.
The main character, Lakshmi Sen, has been given a telepathic gift by the goddess she’s named after: she can sense people’s emotions and sometimes even a little of their current circumstances. Because of this, she’s known to the customers of her mother’s sari shop as someone who can help choose the perfect sari for them.
Lakshmi, living in Seattle with her widowed mother, tries to use her gift to help people. But on the day she meets American Nick Dunbar, the driver for a famous female Bollywood star, Lakshmi’s gift disappears, at least in his presence. And on the same day, her mother announces that she’s found the perfect future husband for her daughter.
Lakshmi falls in love with Nick, but is determined to follow her family’s traditions and enter the marriage arranged for her. It doesn’t hurt that her new fiance is a very kind, handsome, intelligent man. Yet Lakshmi is faced for the first time with questions about duty, tradition, and family. When do these traditions actually hinder family devotion rather than help it? And what exactly is the real nature of love?
You follow Lakshmi’s ups and downs, as well as the fortunes of a few of her friends and customers. Some have followed Indian marriage traditions and ended up very happy, while others have experienced disastrous results. But all of them help Lakshmi to view her own heart and commitments wisely, and make her final decision.
This is sort of an intercultural chick-lit book. It addresses some of the same themes that deeper, more serious Indian novels do, yet it manages to look at them in a lighter way while coming to its conclusions. This is a very enjoyable book, and I really recommend it.