Recently, I attended an author event where the author (I’m pretty sure it was Victoria Schwab, but don’t quote me), described that the part of a novel that mattered most was not the first line, or the first chapter, but the very end. She used the analogy of a dinner. If you have an amazing meal, but a lackluster final course, you won’t remember the dinner as amazing. You’ll remember that so-so final taste in your mouth. Her sentiment articulates how I feel about Sandhya Menon’s debut, When Dimple Met Rishi.
In my July Wrap Up, I described When Dimple Met Rishi as the perfect summer read, and, for the most part, it is. At least until the last twenty pages. Suddenly, the novel changes from a funny account of an arranged marriage, into a story idealized to the point of disbelief. Parents are suddenly accepting, characters realize their mistakes, colleges mysteriously loosen their admission requirements, and all is well in the world. Especially after what had been such a lovely debut, I was disappointed.
“I haven’t been to India since I was twelve… the thing I remember most is feeling like I didn’t belong. I mean, I was already going through that phase at my school where I felt like my family was weird and different and I just wished they’d be like all the other parents. But then I went to Mumbai and realized to all the people there, I was American. I was still the outsider, and still strange, and I still didn’t belong.”
When Dimple Met Rishi follows Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel, two Indian-American teenagers who meet at a summer coding program. Unfortunately, the meeting is not kismet, but a product of their parents’ scheming. Rishi goes into the program knowing full well that his parents plan for him to marry Dimple, but Dimple is completely unaware. Needless to say, awkwardly cute situations arise.
Menon’s debut was light and funny- comparable to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or The Sun is Also a Star– but also touched on issues relating to identity and culture. I am excited to read Menon’s next romance, slated for summer 2018, but hope it will have a more realistic end.