Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Perfectly Untraditional: Review and Giveaway

Having read some poetry penned by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Because All is Not Lost and Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors (during which I experienced a breakthrough and started to finally understand contemporary poetry better, and even attempted to write some of my own), I was excited to have the opportunity to be among the first to read Perfectly Untraditional, the debut novel by this author, published in 2011 in New Delhi, India.

Perfectly Untraditional is the narrative of a young woman, a daughter, Shaili Kapoor, who has grown up in India. As the title suggests, there is something untraditional about Shaili, the protagonist, although her Indian name means 'tradition'. The book begins and ends at Pashan Lake in Pune, India. In this novel, Shaili, a 37-year-old writer based in NYC, returns to India because her mother, Meena, has drowned herself in the lake. When Shaili was younger, the lake was a favorite destination for Shaili and her mother, who would often go there together, without the knowledge or company of her father, Suresh, or her younger sister, Tanisha.

"Shaili had dreamed of chopping off her father's tongue and arms one night when he was asleep. She stormed out of the living room and sat on her bed grumbling. Mrs. Kapoor followed her inside while Tanisha stood uninterestedly int he kitchen speculating if her arms needed waxing."
~Perfectly Untraditional, Sweta Srivastava Vikram

At Pashan Lake, Shaili meets her father in an attempt to comprehend her mother's suicide and to work toward a reconciliation with her father. Armed with two friends, Supriya, a longtime Indian friend, and Leila, a Persian friend from NYC, Shaili confronts her father for the first time in many years. It is a meeting fraught with tension and emotion. All along, she has had problems with her father while growing up, as she hated his treatment of her mother, which became brutal whenever he drank too much. The book goes back in time, and tells Shaili's story in the third person, although I felt as if I were experiencing Shaili's journey with her, and I rooted for her happiness and success.

Throughout the novel, Shaili is finding out things about her family and herself that were previously hidden. This process, as we know, is not always easy and often murky. In the book, Shaili has mixed feelings about marrying Sadhil, an extremely handsome Indian man her father has "found" for her to marry. Although Sadhil is very nice and would provide Shaili with an exciting new life in NYC, something does not feel quite right to Shaili. Her parents don't exactly force her to marry Sadhil, yet Shaili struggles intensely with her feelings and balks at the idea of marriage to this seemingly ideal man--and she is not sure why.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram presents a sensitive portrait of a young woman who is discovering who she is within and beyond the context of her family. The Kapoors are a traditional family in India, and Shaili herself is traditional in certain ways. For example, she expresses her love through food and cooking, which is especially important to Indian women. But, in other ways she is decidedly untraditional, and as she realizes that she's different, she also realizes that a traditional life is not in store for her.

Perfectly Untraditional is an enthralling, passionate novel about a young woman from a country and culture that I enjoyed learning about. I read it quickly over the course of a few nights, and recommend it to those who like character-driven fiction with strong female characters.

In celebration of the release of her first novel, the author is graciously offering an autographed copy of Perfectly Untraditional as a giveaway to a reader (U.S. only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • For yet another chance, mention why you'd like to read this new novel.

Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, June 13. One winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, June 14. Good luck!

Special thanks to Sweta Srivastava Vikram for sending me her novel.


  1. The paragraphy you quote showed a lot of anger in this girl towards her father. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for young Asian girls living in either America or England, finding it difficult to conform to the cultural side their families live by when they are surrounded by other youngsters with more freedom and different lifestyles.They want to fit in with their peers, yet don't want to upset their families.

  2. Wow! This sounds like an emotional read. I wish I could get my hands on this one :)

    Great review as always, Suko. You have written a heartfelt review :)

  3. I hope it's not too depressing! Great review.

    BTW,If you switch your comment setting to pop-up window, instead of embedded below post, it will allow me to sign in through my google account. It's not allowing me right now. Just an FYI!

  4. Thank you, Suko for this interesting post; This book seems great ! I like toread about Indian and indian people.

  5. I would love to find out what makes this protagonist so unconventional, and also why she seems to object to a marriage that seems respectable and secure. It sounds like this book has a lot going for it, and I bet it's something that I would really enjoy. I would love to be entered in your giveaway, and thank you for your fantastic and all-encompassing review. Great job, Suko!

  6. That was a really nice review, and I'm really not sure I would read it, it sounds a bit depressing, but I may be wrong. However, I don't think I want to be in the giveaway, you can count me out this time.

  7. Thanks for the informative review. I enjoy reading and learning about other cultures so I think I'd like this book. I'm a follower in google reader and I'll add a link to the contest in my sidebar.

  8. thanks you for the opportunity the book looks very interesting! and the cover is gorgeous!

    GFC follower

  9. Sounds like a wonderful read!
    I'd love to enter,

    Also a GFC follower
    thank you!

  10. This one sounds really good. It sounds emotional, considering what Shaili endures. Nice review!

  11. This sounds like an interesting story.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  12. I'd love a chance into this giveaway!

    unforgetable_dreamer_always (at) hotmail (dot) com

  13. I cannot imagine how different the traditional Indian way of life of Shaili Kapoor's family must be from the life she lives in NYC and how torn she is between the two. Her mother's tragic & sad death probably makes her feel resentful, angry and guilty and the tug of loyalty to her mother and her traditional life is probably strong but I suspect Shaili is a more modern young woman. This story sounds captivating and intriguing. I certainly want to read Shaili's story and read about what she discovers about these two different worlds and if and how she figures out what's right for her.

    Thank you for hosting a giveaway of this wonderful debut!

  14. I'm a GFC and email follower of your blog!


  15. I've been reading several books with characters who were born in and live or lived in Indian and Perfectly Untraditional sounds like a book worth reading! Please enter me in your giveaway!


  16. The cover alone grabs your attention!

    I am already a follower!




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