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The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters Hardcover – 17 Jun 2019
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Praise for Balli Kaur Jaswal:
‘Big-hearted, earthy and funny: turns so many preconceptions upside down. A rattlingly good story’ Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
‘Warm and hilariously funny’ Good Housekeeping
‘Charming, hilarious and thoughtful’ The Pool
‘Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows balances darkness and light, social commentary and ecstatic escapism… funny and moving tale of desire and its discontents’ The Economist
‘Sensual, authentic and hilarious, I will never look at an aubergine in the same way again – 5 stars’ The Sun
‘Enlightening and entertaining’ Woman & Home
‘A dark comedy… about empowerment and friendship’ Tatler
‘A page turner… Tackles serious themes with a light and funny touch’ Glamour
‘Funny yet serious, this is a fab book about women, culture and secrets’ Prima
‘By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants’ Kirkus Reviews
‘Compulsive, funny and wonderfully original – this novel glows with witty sensuality. I love it ’ Helen Lederer, Losing It
‘Poignant, intelligent yet wickedly funny – a delightful read that reignites one's belief in the power of sisterhood’ June Sarpong
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The book is set in London, Melbourne, but mostly, India. The sisters - ages from mid-40's down to early 30's - have been quibbling all their lives. Rajni, the oldest, has a fairly satisfying life with her husband in London, but her 18 year old son throws her a curve ball just as she's to leave on a pilgrimage to India with her late mother's remains. Her London-based sister, Jezmeen, is an aspiring actor and social-media star. Their Melborne-based sister, Shirnia, has married a traditional man who wants a traditional wife, and things aren't working too well in their young marriage. The women set off on their trip to Punjabi, India squabbling with each other and at odds with others in their lives.
Okay, so a book with this setup plot can go different ways. It could degenerate into non-stop sister-hissing, or it can pull itself together and get serious. (While it might be fun for a while to read sister-hissing, the non-stop part would get a bit tiresome.) Maybe you can guess the ending, but the fun is how Jaswal gets the reader there. She's full of surprises and I think the book flows pretty well because of that.
(Each chapter of the book begins with a guide to the sisters from their mother, outlining their day's journey. I don't know a great deal about India - though I love reading books about the country and the people - but the Shergill sisters are Sikhs. I've never read about Sikhs before and so was very interested in that part of the story.)
I adored the first novel by Jaswal’s that I read, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, but I think I actually even liked this one more! The dynamic between the sisters is so authentic. The characters are well developed, which their own flaws and struggles. The way those flaws and struggles play out throughout the novel and within the sisterly relationship is captivating.
I also loved the setting. I found myself googling the various places that the characters visited so that I could marry the image described in the book with real life. They were often very similar.
And Jaswal does not shy away from deep conversations or heavy topics. These complicated issues are woven throughout the book expertly and confronted with grace. If you haven’t picked this one up, I highly recommend it!