Book Review: The Recession Groom, by Vani

Posted on 26 Oct 2015 under Essays

Summary of Review:

Without a doubt, amongst the worst books I’ve ever read. The story makes no sense and the ending is pure Bollywood. Geez, I don’t even know where to begin! The characters are undeveloped and uninteresting. The writing is full of warped phrases and sentence constructions (if not outright grammatical mistakes and incorrect uses of phrases). It would have been bad enough had the writing been mediocre or if the editing had been lazy. In this case, unfortunately, the book fails on both counts. Give this one a miss if you don’t want to spend a few hours of your life that you will never get back on a book that is very likely to disappoint you.

(Detailed review follows)

Image of Cover of the book "The Recession Groom" by Vani

Cover of the book “The Recession Groom” by Vani

Detailed Review:

I have a lot of patience for Indian authors. I grow tired of reading quality literature that’s set in foreign lands through which I can only partially relate to the culture and setting of the story. I’d love to read stories that have real Indian characters in real Indian settings. So it’s a bit of a bummer that The Recession Groom fails to do that. The setting is almost entirely in Canada and USA, and most of the characters are NRIs or foreigners.

The plot revolves around Parshuraman Joshi, a highly eligible, unusually tall (by Indian standards) and handsome bachelor working an IT job for a major multi-national in Canada. On the pretext of some lousy excuse, he has to visit India and gets pressured by his sister into getting married as soon as possible. The overbearing and annoying elder sister apparently cannot herself get married unless Parshuraman gets married first (yeesh, is this still a thing?) and forces him to accept a match. On the other hand, Parshuraman’s equally annoying and just as overbearing aunt who lives in the USA (who also raised him while he completed his higher education there) forces him to accept another match. Parshuraman prefers this one because she’s so pretty (again, yeesh!). There’s a third love interest in the form of his colleague, Jennifer. This part of the plot is further complicated by the presence of his colleague, Bill (I challenge you to think of a more generic foreign name … seriously!). At some point, Mr Joshi is laid off, his upcoming wedding gets cancelled and the rest of the story revolves around how he gets back onto his feet and discovers whom he really loves.

If this sounds like a badly improved plot of a generic Bollywood movie, that’s because it pretty much is. The lack of depth in the story and the writing is astounding. While there is some level of depth to Parshuraman’s character, all the other characters in the novel (bar none) are caricatures of clichés that clearly highlight that the author has refused to push the envelope here. Jennifer, for example, is loud, instinctive and does things that you wouldn’t expect any sane person to do — a “fireball”, as the back page summary puts it. Aunt Parvati is a hyper-typical Indian-turned-American who forces Parshuraman to wear extra large clothes (presumably because rap music is in fashion?). Parshuraman also has a grandma; no prizes for guessing that she comes across as a wise old woman who’s in touch with modern realities and is open-minded. But it all feels so artificial. Parshuraman and his sister refer to each other, literally, as “Brother” and “Sister”. Geez Louise, what the hell happened between you two in your childhood? All the characters talk like each other. You can barely tell the difference between the Americans and the Indians, forget about being able to get individualistic dialogues from each character. Bill seems to exist to provide comic relief initially (at which he fails terribly) and then later, he’s suddenly involved in a major plot-line which is handled extremely superficially. It’s as if the characters exist only to push the plot along. The hallmark of a well-written story is that you know the people you’re reading about have lives outside of the story that’s being told. There are aspects to their personality which exist but may not be evident on the surface. That kind of doesn’t happen here because the characters are so … weird and over-the-top. You kind of feel like nobody can be like this except in a book or a movie.

** SPOILER ALERT IN THIS PARAGRAPH ** Towards the end of the book, Parshuraman realizes he wants to be with Jennifer, but she’s pregnant with Bill’s kid (yes, seriously). Now, this is a HUGE deal, right? The woman you think is your chosen one for life is about to give birth to someone else’s baby. That should change things forever, shouldn’t it? But all Parshuraman wants, instead, is for Bill to say he will quietly walk out of their lives forever and even abandon the child that is his, which Bill does because Bollywood ending … I have no words. ** END OF SPOILERS **

Sometimes, you read something and it strikes you that maybe the author’s trying too hard. For example, people in this novel rarely just walk. Instead, they sashay (repeatedly in different scenarios) and strut (in different contexts). Phrases like “by all means” are peppered numerous times (and in one or two cases, I wasn’t sure if it was even correctly used). I found a couple of places where a misplaced comma appeared, and “Ma’am” (short for madam) was incorrectly spelled as “Mam” (British slang for ‘mother’). The style of writing is not great, either.  Good writing shouldn’t narrate what’s happening. We should see it through the eyes of the protagonists and feel it through their experiences. In this case, however, there are plenty of times when the author tells us, the reader, what is going on as an omniscient being. I also found it annoying that descriptions of EVERYTHING include brand-names. Occasionally, brands can be used to emphasize when someone has expensive taste, but in this case, it just feels overdone.

The writing also suffers from multiple place-time inconsistencies. One minute, Jennifer is opening the door for Parshuraman, who keeps a respectable distance from her. The next minute, he’s taking his hands off her face or something. All of a sudden, this book is a mystery – how did the hand get there?! Bah, humbug. The book suffers from bad editing which cannot wholly be attributed to the author. A large portion of the blame must rest with the editor (or team of editors) who should be fired faster than you spell the word “P-R-O-O-F-R-E-A-D”.

Look, I’ll be honest. This is not the worst book I’ve read. The story isn’t great, but it’s not completely brainless. The characters are caricatures and largely over the top, but that’s forgivable. What really gets my goat is that the editing is so bad. If I could at least read the book without the urge to underline something every couple of paragraphs with a pencil, I might have pushed it as a one-time quick and dirty read. But with all its flaws, I just can’t recommend it with a clear conscience.

Final Rating: 2/5

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3 Responses to “Book Review: The Recession Groom, by Vani”

  1. *thumbs up*
    *thumbs up*
    *thumbs up*

    This is hilarious! Almost makes me WANT to pick up the book now 😛

  2. LOL Loved you review.
    I thought I was the only one who can criticize authors badly but you…
    can I be your student? 😛
    Anyways, completely agree with whatever you said and disappointed for why couldn’t I write my review like this. haha

  3. It might be because I have a lot of experience criticizing things! 😛

    I had also slated Sidin Vadukut’s book. He replied to my review with a heartbreaking comment 😛

    So now whenever I write a bad review, I wonder if I’ve been unduly harsh.