Book Review: The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters - Balli Kaur Jaswal

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Title: The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Publisher: HarperCollins India; 1 edition (30 June 2019)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: Rs. 310 on Amazon
Pages: 320

I loved Jaswal's 'Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows' and that was the sole reason why I picked this one. I haven't read her earlier books, but this one I was looking forward to. I read this immediately after 'My Sister, The Serial Killer', so the family theme had already been set. I had really high hopes from this and I couldn't wait to devour it.

When Sita Kaur Shergill is on her death bed, she burdens her British-born Punjabi daughters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina with a last wish. When she passes away soon after, the sisters who barely get along, have to travel to India on a pilgrimage to fulfill their mother's last wish. The sisters, though hesitant to travel together at first, decide to honor their dead mother by doing this for her. The sisters are in a pickle in their own lives and the timing of the India trip couldn't have gotten worse, but each one of them are determined to see this through.

Rajni, a school principal, has just found out that her eighteen year old son has gotten a woman twice his age pregnant and intends to move in with her. Not sure if she is upset by this news or the fact that she'll be a grandmother at the age of 43. Jezmeen, the struggling actress, on the other hand is hiding from social media attacks after a certain video of hers (the silliest point in the book) went viral. Shirina, on a forced break from work, is the sweet spoken polite woman who is dealing with a hostile mother-in-law and a mama's boy husband. Each of their secrets are not known to the other and the sisters are hell-bent upon holding on to their secrets come what may.

While this book has a really promising premise, it has a serious execution problem. The writing is brilliant and the subtle humor and wit comes across beautifully, but, the way the story spans out doesn't make any sense. Nor is it realistic. The sisters travels are detailed well and it gets pretty clear with every page that the sisters are hating every minute of this trip. Rajni being the authoritative eldest sister who planned this trip on her own, feels that her sisters are not taking this trip seriously. Jezmeen is always glued to her phone and is keen to deviate from Rajni's well planned itinerary at every point. Shirina seems to be mute for some reason and is perpetually tired. I know siblings are usually quite different from one another, but these three ladies take it up one notch higher. The characters suddenly start feeling caricaturish and the story then begins to unfold like a Bollywood movie.

I found it odd that the sisters did not bother to get in touch with their extended family in India while they were there. The cover talks about them finding their roots away from home, but the sisters hardly even seek it. They barely talk about their individual relationships with their parents nor is there any solid back-story to support this. A bunch of random characters added for some sort of redemption only takes down the book. The cab driver called Tom Hanks, who keeps making references to the actor's movies, a nosy woman at the Golden Temple and a movie director/producer who turns out to a hero in the end.

The author has even tried to add in a lot of social elements like euthanasia, female feticide and property inheritance, but they all seem totally unnecessary. Sita's back-story made sense in more ways than one, but is again let down by the thought of what next. The not-so-subtle hint of her extra-marital affair did not add anything to the story nor take away anything. It turned out to be one of the biggest loop holes of the book. The three sisters find answers to the questions they were seeking from their lives, and it was all as cliched as it could get. The questions that remains is, did they have to travel to India to find answers? It brought them all closer yes, thanks to movie style finish, but I don't know how affected they were by their mother's death. Especially the way she chose to die.


Verdict: Very Bollywood, very average.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

8 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows and was looking forward to Balli's new book. Sad that it isnt as good as the debut novel. It's a shame to see books with great story line but poor execution. Will check it out when it is nearly free on Kindle :D

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    1. Really sad, I did have quite some expectations from this one.

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  2. Oh that's sad. After that cracker of a book, this must have come as a disappointment. Thanks for the review, Soumya.

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  3. Oh what a pity. Isn't the premise a little cliched already? The best thing about Erotic Stories was the completely out of the box idea. What a disappointment this one is.

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    1. It is, but with three women on a journey it can get quite exciting, but it didn't.

      One hell of a disappointment this one was.

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  4. The premise seemed a little cliched to begin with, but I loved the former book enough that I was willing to give this one a try. But now I am definitely skipping it! There are just too many good books to read to bother with mediocre ones. So thank you so much!

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  5. Oh this is so sad as I was keen to read this book. But I think another book blogger has written a similar review.

    I love how you have delved into the premise and questioned everything - it convinced me of why you didnt quite like the book

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