Review: Sari, Not Sari by Sonya Singh

  • Title: Sari, Not Sari
  • Author: Sonya Singh
  • Publisher: Simon Schuster
  • Release Date: 4/5/22
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun. Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents. For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis. But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding. What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated. 

I was so excited to get an ARC of Sari, Not Sari. I loved the cheeky title, and I loved the idea of a story about a powerful female CEO of color.

It didn’t quite live up to my hopes. Manny Dogra wasn’t quite the strong woman I was hoping she would be. Throughout the story, it is clear her fiance is mistreating her: he can’t be bothered to make time for her or to choose a wedding date. Most egregiously, he approves a whitewashed photo of Manny to go on a major magazine cover. Despite all of this, Manny doesn’t break up with him, and break ups are her business! I was disappointed that Manny allowed herself to be treated this way.

I felt similarly about Sammy’s romantic situation in the story. He asks Manny to “temporarily break up” with his girlfriend, so he doesn’t have to bring her to his brother’s wedding. It becomes clear that Sammy’s girlfriend, Lisa, has been treating him very badly too and has been causing him to distance himself from his family. His family members say time and time again that he seems happy and more himself in a space without Lisa.

That being said, Manny and Sammy are very sweet together. They are able to joke with one another and share food off one another’s plates. They are able to confide in each other about diffcult moments in their lives like the death of Manny’s parents. It is also clear that Sammy’s family likes Manny as well and thinks they are good together, which is not for nothing.

I enjoyed learning more about Indian cultural traditions around weddings as I read Sari, Not Sari. I learned about the roka ceremony, which sets the tone for the rest of the wedding festivities. The descriptions of the lavish buffets of food at the wedding festivities made me hungry as I read. It was lovely to see Manny learning about Indian dance, clothing, and movies, and beginning to embrace her culture.

While I won’t spoil the ending, the last chapter of Sari, Not Sari feels like it races to a conclusion a little too quickly. It feels as though Singh is racing to give her characters a resolution without them actually earning it.

Sari, Not Sari is a fun and enjoyable read, but I would have liked to see more depth in the characters and their development.

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