BKMT READING GUIDES

The Sari Shop Widow
by Shobhan Bantwal

Published: 2009-09-01
Paperback : 352 pages
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Pungent curry. . .sweet fried onions. . .incense. . .colorful beads. . .lush fabrics. Shobhan Bantwal's compelling new novel is set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey's Little India, where a young businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love and family. . .

Since becoming a widow at age ...

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Introduction

Pungent curry. . .sweet fried onions. . .incense. . .colorful beads. . .lush fabrics. Shobhan Bantwal's compelling new novel is set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey's Little India, where a young businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love and family. . .

Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents' sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison's bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling. . .

To the rescue comes Anjali's wealthy, dictatorial Uncle Jeevan and his business partner, Rishi Shah-a mysterious Londoner, complete with British accent, cool gray eyes, and skin so fair it makes it hard to believe he's Indian. Rishi's cool, foreign demeanor triggers distrust in Anjali and her mother. But for Anjali, he also stirs something else, a powerful attraction she hasn't felt in a decade. And the feeling is mutual. . .

Love disappointed Anjali once before and she's vowed to live without it-though Rishi is slowly melting her resolve and, as the shop regains its footing, gaining her trust. But when a secret from Rishi's past is revealed, Anjali must turn to her family and her strong cultural upbringing to guide her in finding the truth. . .

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Excerpt

Chapter 1
For the second time in ten years her life was beginning to come apart. Anjali Kapadia stood still for a minute, trying to absorb the news. Could it possibly be a mistake? But it wasn’t; she’d heard it clearly. Despite her best efforts to curb it, the initial shock wave refused to ebb. The seemingly harmless bit of information was all it had taken to shatter the image of a satisfying lifestyle and career. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Author:

1. Anjali Kapadia is a Hindu widow from a conservative family. Is her life different compared to widows from other cultures? Discuss the uniqueness of her situation.

2. Is a sari and jewelry boutique a good backdrop for a book set in the United States? Could it have been a different background, something that could have given the story an entirely different twist?

3. Jeevan-kaka, her uncle from India, is an autocratic man with an agenda of his own. Discuss his entry into the lives of Anjali and her family, and the consequences.

4. What role does Anjali’s brother Nilesh play in this story? What does he bring to the plot?

5. Discuss Anjali’s lingering feelings for her dead husband and how they influence her actions and emotions throughout the book.

6. Why do you think Anjali has picked an unlikely man like Kip Rowling for a secret boyfriend? What kind of impact does he have on her life and the story?

7. Rishi Shah is the reluctant and unwelcome third party when he is introduced to Anjali. Do you think her overtly hostile reaction to him is justified?

8. What are some of the consequences of a widow falling in love with a man of mixed race, a man who does not even live in the same country?

9. Discuss Rishi’s relationship and eventual breaking up with his girlfriend, Samantha. Compare and contrast that with Anjali’s relationship with Kip.

10. Does the grand opening of the new Silk & Sapphires store offer any insights into the planning and running of a large and diverse ethnic business? What about the cultural elements introduced as part of the opening festivities?

11. Jeevan, her uncle, has a couple of deep secrets, which are revealed towards the end. What do you think of the motives behind his actions, and some of the ramifications of his disclosure?

12. Discuss the unique Hindu family structure as portrayed in this story. How is this domestic arrangement different than western cultures? How does it affect Anjali’s present life and her potential future with Rishi?

13. Could the story have ended any other way? As a hopeless romantic, I naturally gravitate towards happy or hopeful endings, but you could discuss some other, highly interesting possibilities. And the possibilities are always endless…

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dear BookMovement,

After writing two novels set in India, both of which have stories woven around hot button social issues, I decided to set THE SARI SHOP WIDOW in the U.S. It was time for me to explore the Indian-American experience, take my readers on a different kind of journey by offering them a rare glimpse into the lives of Indian immigrants.

Nonetheless my deep interest in women’s issues resonates in this book as well. Here I have painted the portrait of a young Indian widow and businesswoman in an American suburban setting, and how, despite her westernization, the traditionalist culture still influences every facet of her life.

I have set this novel about a fashionable boutique owner in the heart of New Jersey’s “Little India.” It is a way to introduce the colors, textures, scents, and fashions of India, and also the diverse lives of a particular ethnic group. This is “Bollywood in a Book.”

After reading this romantic tale, I hope you will be tempted to visit your Indian-American neighborhood and try some spicy pakoras or curry, and indulge in the unique shopping experience.

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