You can’t choose who you fall for…but it helps if there’s a list
Raina, twenty-nine, is still unmarried much to the dismay of her family who think that by now she should have been married in a dream Indian wedding. The pressure to settle down reaches new heights when her grandmother, Nani, decides to play matchmaker in order to find her the perfect man.
Eager not to disappoint her family, Raina goes along with the plan but when the love of her life returns – ex-boyfriend Dev – she’s forced to confront her true feelings and decide what she really wants.
Funny, feelgood and heart-warming, The Arrangement shines a light on being single in your twenties, societal and cultural expectation of women, and modern day arranged marriages. Perfect summer read for fans of Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None.
I was pretty excited to receive a review copy of The Arrangement by debut author Sonya Lalli. From the blurb, it reminded me a lot of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. And I admit, another unconventional Bollywood love story sounds like a great light read.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I was really hoping it’d be as funny and smart as When Dimple Met Rishi or even Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik. But it fell kind of flat for me and I didn’t really connect with the main character Raina.
There were some great things to this book. I think the writing was fun to read in an overall. I didn’t feel bored with Sonya’s style of writing. The Arrangement started out alright to be honest. We meet soon-to-be 30 year old Raina, a bank investment analyst in the middle of meeting a potential husband on a blind date set up by her Nani (grandmother). I like how light and fun the book started. And I liked Raina in the beginning. She seemed determined and love her family with such fierce and loyal compassion.
Yes, we’ve all heard of the second generation Asian female who works hard and finds herself single, looking for a husband. Or at the very least, finds herself being set up on blind dates by relatives who feel she should be looking for a husband. And we love reading about them. Because there are so many women like Raina. And the numbers just keep increasing as more and more young people choose not to get married. And it just drives the older generation crazy.
To be honest, The Arrangement is a great book to initiate the conversation surrounding arranged marriages and societal pressures on millennials to get married.
While arranged marriages are more prominent among South Asians, what Raina goes through, emotionally and psychologically through her grandmother’s matchmaking attempts reflects a realistic situation on how stressful being in that situation is.
Now let’s get into parts of the book that I really didn’t enjoy reading. Raina herself is a character I couldn’t relate to or like as the book progresses. As a 25-year-old engineer who’s single and figuring life out, it really wasn’t a reassurance to read about Raina: a 29-year-old bank investment analyst still hung up on a guy she dumped 2 years ago. To see her passionless about her job on top on pining after her ex when he returns to Toronto, when obviously he didn’t give 2 hoots about her, was nothing short of pathetic. Now, while I understand that most adults do not have their life together, I did not expect Sonya to write about a weak character who believes that her worth lies in the man she desperately is in love with.
Sorry, but these sort of characters are just not my cup of tea.
While Raina is not the first character, or human being, to chase after a guy who doesn’t love her, it would have been a salvageable book for me if the plot and supporting characters had an impact on Raina. But unfortunately, we don’t see much of the characters. And I think this is a common problem with debut books. They focus too much on the main character that they forget readers just love the friends and family as much as the main character.
Nani was such a great loving, albeit a bit crazy, grandmother. I wished we had more of her background and her relationship with Raina’s mom to read about. Even Raina’s friendship with her cousins and best friend, seems very superficial.
The plot didn’t really have anything strong to tether itself to, and the ending was all over the place. We find Raina redeeming herself a bit, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I felt the ending was too rushed and I didn’t get the final message from Raina. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger that we got, but rather an abrupt crash into nothingness.
Overall, this wasn’t the best diverse book for me. There are definitely loads of other diverse books that we can read and fall in love with. As much as I wanted to love a book written by a POC writer, I couldn’t get myself to be on board with Raina’s immature shenanigans.
Do yourself a favour and pick up Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (general fiction) or When Dimple Met Rishi (YA) instead!
Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review!