The Rearranged Life
By Annika Sharma
Published: May 15, 2015
Nithya, a vivacious, intelligent and driven college senior has always known what she has wanted: a successful career in medicine and the love of her family. She's even come to terms with the idea of an arranged marriage, a tradition her conservative Indian family has held up for thousands of years. When a night of partying puts her on a collision course with danger, Nithya's entire life changes. Enter James St. Clair, the smart, challenging and heartbreakingly handsome American. As Nithya and James fall in love, she questions the future she and her parents have always planned. Now, Nithya has a choice to make: become a doctor and a good Indian bride, or step away from her family and centuries of culture to forge her own path. The decision she comes to takes her on a journey that transforms how she sees her future, her relationships with loved ones, and how she learns to put herself back together when even her best-laid plans fall apart.
Nithya meets James in class when he helps her out after she forgets a major assignment and again when he rescues her from a scary near date-rape scenario at a party later that night. James is the kind of guy that her parents would want for her except for the fact that he isn't Indian. At first she does her best to ignore her attraction but the more time they spend together the harder she falls for him. Unfortunately Nithya's parents expect her to have an arranged marriage and her mother already has the perfect candidate in mind, the son of one of her friends and someone Nithya herself hits it off with when they meet at a wedding. Nithya has to decide between two good guys and two ways of life and the decision isn't easy.
I wanted to read this because of the subject of arranged marriage and because Nithya is the daughter of immigrants trying to balance her family's traditions with the American way of life. I found Nithya easy to relate to. I loved how close she is to her family and how important they are to her. I really appreciated the respect she shows for her parents and their beliefs even when they didn't quite align with her own. Rather than just complaining that they are old fashioned and out of touch, she understands where they are coming from and hates the thought of disappointing them.
Nithya and James's relationship has its ups and downs especially as she is torn between Indian culture and American culture. She is of both worlds and not sure yet how to work that out in her relationship. She really cares about James but she knows that her parents and relatives wouldn't approve because he isn't Indian. James is actually a really nice guy. He is smart, respects Nithya and his family is very important to him. It is hard for James to understand Nithya's reluctance to come clean with her family and she hurts him by being on the fence about their relationship. He is from a loving family like Nithya but he and his siblings have more breathing room to make their own choices and their own mistakes.
I thought the author did a really good job of portraying the challenges that Nithya and James have to face as a couple from two very different backgrounds. Nithya's parents could have come across as controlling or rigidly strict but instead they are shown to be two people who love their daughter very much but have differing world views and expectations. Their belief is that arranged marriage is how it's always been done so why break the system? The author does bring up a good point about the importance of shared culture and shared experience as a bond in a marriage relationship and how when two people marry, it isn't just the couple but also their families and extended relatives who are brought together.
Something else I liked about the book was that it explores Nithya's career and college struggles. Nithya has always been a good student and hard worker. She has put a lot of effort in pursuing her dream to become a doctor. Now it is time to take MCATs and go through difficult interview process to get into medical school and it definitely puts pressure and stress on her in addition to what she is already feeling over her hidden romance.
Overall I really liked this new adult novel. There wasn't any drawn out angst or drama and I think it was pretty realistically and thoughtfully written. I should note that while this book is new adult, in being true to Nithya's beliefs and the way she was raised, the romance isn't as steamy as what readers might expect from the genre. I really liked Nithya and I wish this book had been around when I was in college or during my teen years! I could really relate to the struggles Nithya had with trying to be an adult with her own beliefs while also respecting her parents and their traditions. I would suggest this book to readers who like multicultural romance novels, new adult novels without the angst and melodrama, and fans of authors like Anjali Banerjee.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.