The author of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows her acclaimed America debut with this life-affirming, witty family drama—an Indian This Is Where I Leave You—about three Punjabi sisters embarking on a pilgrimage to their homeland to lay their mother to rest.
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking “good” sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.
On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.
Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a female take on the Indian travel narrative. “I was curious about how different the trip would be if it were undertaken by women, who are vulnerable to different dangers in a male-dominated society,” Balli Kaur Jaswal writes. “I also wanted to explore the tensions between tradition and modernity in immigrant communities, and particularly how those tensions play out among women like these sisters, who are the first generation to be raised outside of India.”
Powerful, emotionally evocative, and wonderfully atmospheric, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a charming and thoughtful story that illuminates the bonds of family, sisterhood, and heritage that tether us despite our differences. Funny and heartbreaking, it is a reminder of the truly important things we must treasure in our lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and was eagerly anticipating this one especially after reading @thebooksatchel ’s review. I am happy to say I was not disappointed at all.
The three Shergill sisters who were never really close to begin with are forced into each other’s company for a week long trip to India as their mother’s last wish. The three are as different to each other as any three people could be with Rajni, the rule follower, Jezmeen, the rule breaker and Shirina, the peace maker. The hilarious adventures these three get into on their journey and how it changes the way they see themselves and each other forms the rest of the story.
This book made me laugh out so loud that I had people looking at me strangely, as if I had a couple of screws loose 😂 The whole book has been narrated in this really wry, slightly mocking tone that you couldn’t help but laugh. Interspersed with the humour are thought provoking, heartwarming, nostalgia inducing scenes of family, traditions and gender inequality.
I have seen some reviews criticising the book for its portrayal of India but to me it felt very realistic. If you have lived your entire life outside India, then actually visiting India is still a huge cultural shock, even if you have been brought up the typical Indian way. It was uncomfortable for sure, reading about my country in that way, but I didn’t feel like it was completely wrong either.
The one thing that could be said as a negative would be the slight mystery element in the book which was entirely too predictable and the ending was a little too bollywood-ish to sound real.
Other than that, this book was a complete entertainer. If you are looking for a light hilarious read that will also offer you some food for thought and some Bollywood drama, then look no further.
Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thank you @harpercollinsin for sending us this book.
P.S. the audiobook is amazing too!
About the Author
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s latest novel is The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters (Harper Collins/William Morrow). Her previous novels include Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award, and Sugarbread, a finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize and the Singapore Literature Prize. Her third novel Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was translated into 15 languages and chosen by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.