Where Have We Come, by Saz Vora
My review: ★★★★
This is a love story, steeped in the complexity of family dynamics. Reena and Nikesh are storybook head-over-heels in love for each other. But when there are complications during the birth of their child, the anxiety and stress quickly cause the whole extended family to spiral somewhat out of control. Old wrongs are dragged out; old insecurities are heightened. Differences in traditions and belief systems across the family form a wedge between Reena and Nik, and their own anxious reactions to the situation don’t help. This is a very human story of both romantic and parental love, and the matched benefits and detriments that come with extended family systems.
The situations that Reena and Nik go through are heart-aching; as a parent it’s a bit tough to contemplate the anxiety of a difficult birth. I enjoyed the richness of the dynamics of all of the people involved. I also appreciated getting to learn from this portrayal of a Gujarati Indian immigrant family in Britain; it’s very different from my own experience in America. The foods, the clothes, and most importantly the attitudes and thought processes of these people were different from my own.
That said, I have to admit that because my own experiences are so different, I didn’t really connect with the characters in this book. They felt a bit over-dependent and self-absorbed. They behaved and thought in ways I wouldn’t. That is NOT to say it was badly-written; rather that it just didn’t match me on a personal level. I think if I’d been closer to their cultural background, I’d have related far more to these characters. I still enjoyed the story, the exposure to experiences beyond my own, and the chance to think through the meaning of “family” in the situations these characters encounter.
An enthusiastic recommendation to anyone who’d connect with a book featuring a blend of British and Gujarati Indian culture. And even if you’re not from that background, give it a try and learn a bit about cultures beyond your own.