Shobhan Bantwal’s website greets the visiter with: Shobhan Bantwal’s books are romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture — stories that entertain, educate, and enlighten . . . And Shobhan’s latest novel – The Reluctant Matchmaker – is no exception.
The opportunity to read and review The Reluctant Matchmaker came at a time when I needed a rest from books on business strategy, marketing or heavy duty literature and I’m glad I took the time out. It was my first encounter with Shobhan’s work and one that I don’t regret.
At first the one and two sentence paragraphs put me off and the style was rather simplistic but suddenly there I was at page 80 and I realised that this author had well and truly reeled me into her story about the petite Meena Shenoy and her family. I found myself feeling as if I was sitting in the room with them as they discussed arranged marriages, the fact that Meena’s brother had fallen in love and intended to marry a Muslim girl. Although the story ended as I suspected all along that it would, the final dénouement was not at all as I expected. I shall say no more as I don’t want to spoil the story for you!
The novel is rather Bollywood but often real life can be like Bollywood. Real life for the Indian communities in the US (and indeed elsewhere) also embraces issues such as arranged marriage, sex before marriage, inter-religious relationships; the role of the family matriarch, the relationship of Indian girls with their brothers, the role of elder family members .. Shobhan delicately touches on all of these issues in such a discrete way that no reader could be offended and yet no reader could exit the book without having a greater insight into life in Indian communities.
The Reluctant Matchmaker is a light summer read but one that will make you wish the book lasted longer than its 300 pages and you may even find yourself falling in love with Prajay Nayak. Yes I admit it – I did rather! You’ll almost certainly want to go and read some of Shobhan’s other books and discover other characters and gain insights into other issues that affect Indian communities.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity why not get yourself a copy of The Reluctant Matchmaker ?
Other novels by Shobhan Bantwal:
Here’s what Shobhan has to say about her novels:
The ideas for my books are generally sparked by my interest in women’s social issues, especially South Asian women. While subjects like dowry and female feticide are rather dark, they have always fascinated me because they become convenient tools of evil for certain people.
I want to offer folks outside India a peek into certain elements of contemporary Indian culture that are not often discussed in fiction, i.e. dowry abuse, selective gender-based abortions, and pre-marital sex in a repressive society.
Another reason I write my books is because Indian authors typically don’t write commercial and mainstream fiction. Most of them write literary novels that are beautiful but don’t always reach large segments of the reading public – those readers who want to learn about other cultures, but want to be entertained at the same time, with stories that have romance, mystery, pathos, and humor. I want to give those readers something to sink their teeth into.
Meet Shobhan Bantwal
Shobhan was born and raised in a large, conservative Hindu family in a small town in Southwestern India. An arranged marriage to a man who lived in the U.S. brought her to New Jersey. After giving birth to a daughter and acquiring a second master’s degree in Public Administration from Rider University, she started working for a government agency. As Shobhan says: I’m a late bloomer as far as writing is concerned. Never did I imagine I would even want to be a writer until I turned half a century old. They say a mid-life crisis can go either way—downwards or upwards. Fortunately for me, along with the annoying hot flashes and a few other woes, the creative half of my brain shot into overdrive—definitely an uplifting experience. Overnight I decided I wanted to do two things: be on stage and become a writer.