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Novel of family set in CHENNAI and CHICAGO

10th July 2024

Missy by Raghav Rao, novel of family set in Chennai and Chicago.

Novel of family set in CHENNAI and CHICAGO

The book opens in Madras (which comes to be known as Chennai in 1996) in 1974. Savi has grown up in a convent, having lost her mother, and now that she is 17 years old or so, it is time for her to go and live with a family in the capacity of home help/servant. She is paired with the Nandiyar family to look after their youngest son, Aditya, and soon she becomes part of the buzzing household where servants cater to the needs of the owners.

She finds herself growing closer to a young man, Ananda, but serious trouble soon heads their way and they have to flee to safety, first to the Middle East and then to Chicago.

In the blink of an eye, Part 2 transports the reader to present day and the chapter opens with Missy, entrepreneur and owner of the Dancing Shiva Driving School in Chicago. Two young women feature, Shilpa and Manis, who turn out to be Missy’s daughters and we learn that Missy is now the pseudonym for Savi. It felt as though the author was in a hurry to get his characters to Chicago, 50 years later, and the intervening years leave a bit of a narrative hole.

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Novel of family set in CHENNAI and CHICAGOVarun, a young man also originally from India, takes driving lessons at Missy’s school and finds himself falling for Shilpa, they become very close. We soon discover more about Varun and his heritage. At this point Missy is clearly growing uneasy having any contact with her homeland. Varun’s parents are displeased by the liaison and had someone else in mind for their son.

The author cleverly juxtaposes the different cultures between the two countries in both overt and subtle ways and has his characters straddling the cultural divide.

The writer has created a good story, but I felt there were a couple of elements that undermined the sense of whole. Clues are dropped liberally, which are so obvious that it kills the sense of pathos and anticipation – it is sometimes more than obvious where the storyline is inevitably going, it was too predictable; the transition between chapters sometimes felt jerky and disconnected, which then left me slightly floundering until clarity was provided later in the chapter. This kind of penmanship can make for a fractured and uneven trajectory. But nevertheless there is enough in the story to make this an enjoyable, quick read and gives a particularly good sense of India and Indian values.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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