The Five Day Reunion
Mona Shroff’s The Five Day Reunion is about a divorced couple pretending to be married for the duration of the hero’s sister’s wedding so as not to shock his recently-ill grandfather or provide fodder for his Indian aunts to criticize his mother. I didn’t see enough reason for the couple to go along with it, but I was willing to suspend disbelief on the premise. What really doesn’t work here is the hero, who not only doesn’t reform, but seems to grow actively worse as the story progresses.
Anita married Nikhil, but they fell out when he didn’t support her dream of becoming a lawyer. Nikhil is the only author in a family of lawyers, and has a complex going back to his childhood and the family firm always coming first, and from a woman dating him to secure a position in the business, then ditching him. None of this means he shouldn’t support Anita’s dream, but whatever.
Anita agrees to be fake-married to Nikhil for the duration of his sister’s wedding in exchange for his mother paying for her law school tuition. If you’re excited about a heroine allowed to be mercenary and watch her finances, don’t be; the author makes sure she swaps her tuition deal for something more noble and selfless. There’s really nothing in this for Nikhil, but he has to agree or we wouldn’t have a book.
I did enjoy the depiction of the day-to-day rituals and festivities of an Indian wedding, such as the pithi (covering the couple with turmeric paste) and the mehendi (painting henna on the bride), and the technical details of having the right number of outfits and getting hair and makeup done for each step. If you are familiar with Indian weddings, you’ll probably enjoy seeing it represented here; if you’re not, it’s a newbie-friendly introduction. Also, the secondary characters are well developed. Tina, the bride, resents Anita for abandoning her brother but also for destroying their friendship that bordered on sisterhood. Nikhil’s mother is more sympathetic than I expected at first – image-conscious in the face of her hyper-critical sisters, but also, objectively, a badass for raising her kids while keeping the family firm going in the wake of her husband’s death. I actually would have much preferred an older-couple romance starring Nikhil’s mom.
And these sympathetic secondary characters make Nikhil’s flaws even more stark. See, Nikhil justifies being a workaholic about his writing career by repeating that everybody in his family is a workaholic about their law careers. Except they aren’t – everyone has taken time off for Tina’s wedding but Nikhil. Anita squeezes in work, but makes sure to come back in time for her commitments; Nikhil schedules a meeting and then allows it to run so long that he stands Anita up for a dance performance. And it’s not a mistake he makes early on and learns from! This is nearly the end of the book!
Essentially, Nikhil was a bad husband and Anita was right to divorce him. He then fixed the thing that made him a bad husband (not accepting Anita’s career), but added new flaws that would make him a bad husband for entirely different reasons. That’s… not progress.
I wanted very badly to give The Five Day Reunion a B- because I did like the setting. Anita is fine as the heroine of this type of story, and the secondary characters are strong. But I can’t endorse a romance novel where the heroine simply shouldn’t be with the hero at the end.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.