x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

One & a Half Wife, an exceedingly readable novel

With her "American Dream" unrealised, a woman returns to India in this story of clashing cultures.

One & a Half Wife
Meghna Pant
Westland

Like most authors, Meghna Pant shares something in common with her fictional protagonist. Like Amara Malhotra, Pant can relate to the feeling of displacement, first while living and working in New York for three years, then when returning home to Mumbai to be caught off-guard by its dizzying pace of development.

Amara's 16 years in America are mostly a whirlwind of adjustment in which she and her family encounter just about every speed hump on their journey to reach that hypnotic mirage dubbed "the American Dream". The Malhotras' strength to endure "for Ammu's sake" reaches its breaking point with the failure of her marriage to a respected millionaire. Humiliated and bereft of their family honour, they return to Shimla, where the seeds of Amara's rebellion against conservative Indian society finally take root.

By first novel standards, Pant's writing has its highs and lows. While perceptive in her portrayals of the vulnerability that arises from culture clash, her dependence on happy-ending clichés in the book's second half dispels the gravity essential in a solid plot. However, as its shop sales suggest, One & a Half Wife is still an exceedingly readable book.