Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: An Incurable Insanity by Simi K. Rao

I chose my own husband. No one but the two of us had any hand in meeting each other, falling in love, and getting married. My parents did not know him or know of him through family or friend connections. Arranged marriages are not a part of our cultural heritage. Of course, it turns out that had they known him, they would definitely have picked him because he fits in with my family like a hand in a glove. And I'm glad of that but also glad that I was able to choose to my own spouse without help. But what of arranged marriages? I know how my own relationship grew and changed but how does a relationship come into being when the bride and groom have only met each other fleetingly before their marriage? How does love between these two strangers grow? Can it grow? Simi K. Rao's novel An Incurable Insanity looks at one arranged marriage and how the characters in it come together and find love with the stranger they married.

Ruhi is a young, attractive Indian woman who has finally agreed to an arranged marriage that is very pleasing to her parents. One look at Shaan's photograph and she accepts the match. He seems a good person and she is filled with hope for the future. But on their wedding night, he tells her that he married her because his dying grandfather wished to see him settled and he is in love with the woman back home in California with whom he's been having an affair. Unfortunately, this woman, Des, is married and so there was no question of his marrying her and he now has no intention of consummating his marriage to Ruhi because of his strong feelings. He offers her an out of their sham marriage but she bargains with him to stay married for a few months and for him to take her to the US with him, hoping all the while that she can make their marriage a real one and avoid hurting her parents, who have really fallen for their new son-in-law.

Alone in the states, Ruhi does all she can to be a comfortable, traditional wife to Shaan but soon realizes that this sort of passivity isn't going to win his heart. He is merely kind to her in the way that one does not mistreat furniture, nor notice it much. And so Ruhi decides that it is time to let her real, generally exuberant and occasionally moody and volatile personality shine through in her effort to win him. This starts an extended sparring match with Shaan and Ruhi vacillating between caring for each other and being incredibly angry with each other. Neither of them seems able to share their inner thoughts with the other and so misunderstanding after misunderstanding ensues. And the misunderstandings are complicated by the people and circumstances surrounding them in their life: the happily married Indian couple friends of Shaan's who both fall for Ruhi immediately, a local elderly woman determined to help these two uncover and share their love with each other, Shaan's toxic mistress, the strictures of Shaan's job and new work project, as well as all the adjustments Ruhi has to make in learning to live in another country.

The novel is told from both Shaan and Ruhi's perspectives and there are sections marked out by italics where the dialogue is an internal one rather than between the two main characters. Generally the internal musings were in complete contradiction to whatever the character happened to actually be saying aloud.  This let the reader know what the character was really thinking but was ultimately a very frustrating way of handling it. And Shaan and Ruhi themselves were incredibly tiring characters, constantly flipping back and forth between love and hate, consideration for the other and desire to wound. Their about faces could come from one sentence to the next, making for a tough reading experience and making it rather hard to feel any sympathy towards either one of them, trapped in their seemingly endless misunderstanding. By naming it insanity, Rao has indeed described it well, unfortunately, this sort of insanity made for an unpleasantly maddening and completely exasperating reading experience for me.

For more information about Simi K. Rao and the book, check out her website, find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Goodreads, or visit the publisher's website. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this unusual book for the tour.


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