Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: And Laughter Fell From the Sky by Jyotsna Sreenivasan

All parents have expectations for their children. We can't help but load our little people with what we want for them. It's practically in the parenting handbook. Children being as different as they are, some will strive to meet these expectations and others will fly in the face of them. There's just no predicting kids. And when parental expectations are combined with cultural expectations, such as is the case for the children of Indian immigrants, the expectations are exponentially larger and that much harder to fulfill. Jyotsna Sreenivasan's debut novel And Laughter Fell From the Sky looks at the impact such expectations have on the lives two young twenty-something Indian-Americans as they find themselves and face adulthood.

Rasika is a dutiful Indian daughter, at least superficially. She lives at home and has a good job that allows her to indulge her love of shopping and style. She's agreed to start meeting suitors vetted by her parents in preparation for an arranged marriage. But she's also got a secret life she has successfully concealed from her parents thus far. In fact, she has dated inappropriate men, had brief flings, and one night stands but she's sure that she'll stop all of this once she has met "the one" her parents will choose for her.

Abhay is incredibly smart but he is completely at a loss about what to do with his life. After graduating from college with a degree in general studies rather than the expected medical, legal, or engineering degree, he spent a year living on a commune. But that experience didn't offer him any more direction than his degree and he's now back at home living with his parents still undecided about where he's headed next.

Abhay and Rasika reconnect when each of them is most lost. Rasika is on the verge of meeting her first suitor and Abhay is going to start temping when these two, whose families have long known each other meet outside a restaurant in the college town of Kent, Ohio. After their meeting, they find themselves thinking more and more about the other despite their obvious mismatch. Aside from the fact that they are both Indian (from different castes though), they are incredibly different. Rasika is determined to be a dutiful daughter, doing just as her parents wish, no matter what the cost to herself and Abhay does nothing but dismiss his parents' desires for him and his future, determined instead to find his own direction. Each of them imagines that there is a perfect life and future waiting if they can just find it. In truth, Rasika cannot commit to the men with whom she's presented, unintenionally sabotaging meetings and Abhay is paralysed by a lack of passion for any of his options. What Abhay does have a passion for though, is Rasika, who in turn is not so certain of him, willing to use him sexually but determined to still conform to her parents' wish for an arranged marriage with an acceptable candidate.

While the end of the book and the outcome of Rasika and Abhay's relationship is not in question, their striving and growing as they each come into their own saves the story from being too predictable. Rasika as a character comes across as superficial and needy and she can be quite hard to like. Abhay's character is undirected and floundering but he was certainly more likable than Rasika. The fact that they are clearly destined for each other (and in a love marriage at that) is a tad unbelievable as they come across more as friends than anything else but relationships have certainly been built on worse foundations. Since both characters are trying to find their paths in life, honoring the cultural and familial expectations placed on them without subsuming themselves completely to these expectations, the novel has much thoughtful musing and many discussions between the characters about how to proceed with their respective futures. It was a quick and enjoyable read and those interested in Indian-American culture and the impact it has on the next generation will find this an appealing read.

For more information about Jyotsna Sreenivasan and the book visit her website, her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
And if you'd like to hear more directly from the author, she will be discussing her novel And Laughter Fell From the Sky on Book Club Girl on Air on Wednesday, July 18th at 7 pm ET.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. I'm glad you mention the impact that culture can have on the next generation. That mix of cultures and the way people adapt (or don't) that is something I enjoy reading about.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. I actually found it refreshing that these two seemed to be so authentic in their conversations and interactions, more as friends as you've said. And it does, in some ways, seem to mimic an arranged marriage, as the love comes later (or, at least their awareness of their love, even if it existed sooner), after they have gotten to know each other without the pretense of dating and romance.


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