Desert Isle Keeper
Sister of the Bollywood Bride
Sister of the Bollywood Bride is adorable and earnest, in the best way. Its clear-voiced protagonist reminded me of the recently-departed Beverly Cleary’s heroines in a way, and the whole book is beautiful and easy to sink into. It’s sure to please teenagers and/or sophisticated middle graders, though a couple of dents mean the book misses out on a full-on A.
Eighteen-year-old Mini Kapoor stands on the precipice of her sister Vinny’s nuptials, and she knows she’s the only woman who can get the ball rolling on planning her sister the best ever wedding. Vinny says she wants a simple ceremony, but Mini knows their late mom – who passed away after a long, arduous battle with cancer when Mini was ten – would want only the best for her eldest daughter.
Using the suite of jewelry their designer mother designed and created as inspiration, Mini goes about planning the ceremony. With her father buried in working on his new technology start-up and Vinny herself is in the middle of an energy-draining medical residency all the way in Chicago, Mini knows she must rely upon herself.
Thus does the usually very technically astute, math-minded Mini devote herself to flowers and dresses and dancing to make it all just right for Vinny and her second year medical student fiancé, Manish.
Unfortunately, things quickly begin to spin out of control. Manish wants a large wedding while Vinny wants a simpler ceremony. When Mini’s planning leans toward Punjabi traditions, Vinny objects and tries to include more of Manish’s Tamil traditions in the ceremony. Mini has a 10,000 dollar budget and she must scrimp and save to combine opulence with elegance and please everyone.
Leaning on friends and a network of local aunties, Mini allows nothing –, nor her energy-draining college plans, worries about her SAT scores, her desire to attend design school against her father’s wishes or time spent tutoring small kids in math while taking care of the family’s beloved dog Yogi – to get between herself and her plans..
With a hurricane threatening the eastern seaboard on the very day of the outdoor wedding, Mini is going to have to stay brave and true to make sure the whole ceremony comes off without a hitch. And as for Vir Mirchandani – a handsome Brit with whom she connects with over art and eventually hires to DJ the wedding reception – well, as hard as he flirts with her she’s not going to open her scarred heart to him. Or will she?
Sister of the Bollywood Bride has so many wonderful things going for it. Mini is an incredibly relatable heroine, and her extremely busy life is kind of breathtaking. All the people in her life are very well-drawn, but I especially enjoyed Vinny, who is an entirely different kind of woman from her sister and pops to life beautifully. The whole book burns and bustles with Mini’s general energy, which makes it a breezy read.
Bajpai’s ability to tell a story is phenomenal, and the way she portrays the culture clash inherent in the plot – the difference between growing up Punjabi or Tamil – is touching and easy to grasp for young readers. I live near the upper-class parts of Boston where this book takes place, and could mark off the landmarks and attitudes of the people involved with ease. The romance between Mini and Vir is handled sweetly, and the two of them bonding over art is a wonderful twist.
My only real problem with the novel is the way Vinny handles Mini’s planning choices by the midpoint of the book. While she obviously has the right to protest some of the choices Mini has made, on the other hand, she has basically abdicated the process to her barely-adult sister, so I was eventually irritated by some of her qualms.
Also, I had a very weak grasp on Mini and Vinny’s dad for most of the book; he feels very much like an in-the-background cipher, which was a problem for the majority of the male characters in the book. I didn’t really mind this, and actively enjoyed the parts he was featured in, but I felt he should have had a bigger presence in the narrative by the time the book ended.
These issues, though, aren’t enough to stop me from recommending Sister of the Bollywood Bride to young readers.
NOTE: this book was previously published in a slightly different form in 2013 as Red Turban White Horse: My Sister’s Hurricane Wedding by Scholastic India.