Friday, September 17, 2010
The Unexpected Son by Shobhan Bantwal...
An Expected Pleasure!
When I was asked if I'd like to review Shobhan Bantwal's new novel, The Unexpected Son, I jumped at the chance! Shobhan is such a wonderful storyteller! She creates amazingly realistic characters, wonderful rich complicated stories that touch the reader in so many ways. The Unexpected Son does not disappoint on any of these levels! The story is rich with Indian culture, the voice of a young girls heart, and a mothers sense of duty...
What happens when a woman who’s realized her dreams wakes up to a shocking truth? It is a morning like any other in suburban New Jersey when Vinita Patil opens the battered envelope postmarked “Mumbai.” But the letter inside turns her comfortable world upside down. It tells Vinita an impossible story: she has a grown son in India whose life may depend on her.
Once upon a time, a naive young college girl fell for a wealthy boy whose primary interests were cricket and womanizing. Vinita knew, even then, that a secret affair with a man whose language and values were different from her own was a mistake. He finished with her soon enough—leaving her to birth a baby that was stillborn. Or so Vinita was told.
Now that child is a grown man in desperate need. How will she confess her secret past to her arranged-marriage husband and her grown daughter? Nonetheless, to help her son, to know him, Vinita must revisit her darkest hours by returning to her battle-scarred homeland—and pray for the faith of the family she leaves behind."
Oh the foolishness of youth. But oh, what a wonderful story! Imagine holding onto a secret for 30 years only to find out you were not the only one holding onto a secret. When Vinita Patil receives a letter from Mumbai, little does she realize that her world will never be the same. Vinita is such a wonderful character! She is such a strong independent woman, torn between her modern sensibilities and the traditions of her upbringing. The story follows her from a serious young 19-year-old college girl, who has little time for boys. Her studies are important to her, in order to break free from the traditional views of a woman's place in her society and in order to honor her family with good grades. But then there's this boy... He's a bad boy... and he slowly seduces Vinita with his attentions and sweet talk and then... you guessed it... "something" happens. Vinita is pregnant, unwed, dumped and an emotional wreck. The men in her family decide what to do- which is to whisk her away to Bombay, where no one will know her, keeping the family honor, and where she is told by her family that her baby was born stillborn. If the story were only one of a son showing up on a birth mother's doorstep unexpected, it would be a good story. But, in the hands a Shobhan Bantwal you can expect so much more! And it all starts with that mysterious letter...
With the skills of Shobhan Bantwal's writing, we experience the culture of India through the eyes and ears of Vinita Patil. The traditional place of women, family honor, dating, marriage... The shame that Vinita carries through out her life is tempered by her happy marriage to her modern Indian husband (their courtship was a wonderful part of the story) and daughter, but the happiness she finds there will be shaken with the news of a son... The relationships between the members of Vinita's family are rich and complex, and as family secrets are revealed Vinita's strength of character shines through.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters came alive off the pages, the story captured my attention, and I loved the traditional Indian culture that served as the core of the story and as the basis for the relationships between the family members. There is a wealth of book to discuss here, and it would definitely make a perfect reading group selection. Readers who enjoy stories that deal with the inner conflict between a modern world and traditional cultural values will want to put this on their TBR list, but anyone who enjoys a great story, with a strong female lead character will want to too! I couldn't help myself and read it in one sitting!
I want to thank Jaime of Pump up Your Book Promotions for inviting me to participate in Shobhan Bantwal's Book Tour for The Unexpected Son! Loved it!
*P.S. The Unexpected Son by Shobhan Bantwal was released at the beginning of August by Kensington Books. AND Right now, The Unexpected Son is Kindle Ready! at the great price of $7.99!