Like a Love Song
I read Like a Love Song from cover to cover and I am still not completely sure what it is about. It’s certainly not a love story; it’s kind of about baking; it’s sort of a coming-of-age story, but is not fully any of those. Let me explain.
When we first meet Maahi, she’s a depressed university student from northern India living in southern India because she met a boy and followed him there. Said boy is kind of awful and I could tell from the first page that he was using her without committing to her. When he finally breaks things off, she is shattered as one only can be in their late teens, moves back north to live with her parents and tries her hand at school again. She gets a job at a tech firm, but then gets one at a coffee shop and teaches herself to make cupcakes by watching YouTube tutorials. She starts to date another guy and becomes good friends with a co-worker, with whom she decides to open a bakery called Cupcakes + Cookies.
The second half of the book is taken up with Maahi’s struggles to please her parents (who want her to stay at university and do the bakery thing later), work with her business partner (who clearly wants to move quickly on the bakery thing), and figure out how to date a medical student in secret since she doesn’t want to tell her parents she’s dating anyone.
Given all that is simply too many things for any one person to manage, you can imagine that poor Maahi has it all blow up in her face. After a frustrating cameo from the stupid boy from the first half of the book, Maahi commits to her bakery dreams… I think.
There are quite a few things I really loved about this book. Ms. Singh’s descriptions of place and things are so vivid, I felt like I was in the back of the coffeeshop where Maahi learned to bake and could nearly taste the flavors of her cupcake experiments. As the story is told from Maahi’s PoV, we get a lot of insight into how confused she is for most of the book, how torn she is between her obligation to be a good daughter and how to be a true to herself. In reading some other reviews – as this book has already been published in India – it appears she’s a very relatable character for other young women in her socioeconomic class and I appreciated that she’s clearly a realistic member of that population. I liked learning small details about how people live in Delhi, where the bulk of the novel is set, like what typical lunch foods are.
What I didn’t love is that I, personally, never connected with Maahi. The synopsis makes it sound like she’s older, so I was surprised when I started reading and discovered she’s in her early 20s. All her choices ring true for that age group, it’s just that I tend to avoid college and NA romances due to personal preference. In addition, because Maahi as a character is in such a transition, it makes it hard to pin down what is authentic to her and what is a reaction to those around her. For example, when she’s dating the first buffoon, we’re told that she’s not eating right, has gotten very secluded from her friends and family, and has lost weight. She describes herself as someone who used to be social and vivacious but has become sullen and withdrawn since moving to be with him. Therefore, when she moved away from him, I expected that to be addressed, but it wasn’t really ever discussed. For the rest of the book, she’s mercurial at best and I struggled to get a read on her.
Additionally, as I said at the beginning, this is not a romance novel with a traditional happily-ever-after or a happily-for-now. I am well aware this is a strong determiner for many readers as to whether or not they pick up a book, so I want to be clear. If you go into it expecting the patterns and tropes of romance novels, or even the full-redemption arcs of women’s fiction, you may be disappointed. Like a Love Song, if viewed as a slice-of-life story about a young girl struggling to define herself and her life, will work for many people. If you simply want to read a story about someone whose life is different from yours, then this may well tick your boxes.