Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal [in Booklist]
Nikki’s begrudging agreement to help her sister, Mindi, “find a husband the traditional way” takes her to Southall, a predominately South Asian immigrant neighborhood in west London, to post a discreet marriage advert at the gurdwara (Sikh temple). Unlike Mindi, Nikki considers herself modern and independent, working as a bartender since quitting law school.
Instead of brother-in-law hopefuls, Nikki finds a part-time job as a writing instructor at the temple. Her students turn out to be mostly illiterate Sikh widows with limited interest in learning their ABCs yet eager to share stories about the sensual lives they imagine beyond rigid cultural expectations of near-silent invisibility. As Nikki helps these women find their voices, she’s drawn into a community in which outward appearances are sometimes more important than the truth.
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel is undoubtedly entertaining, yet ultimately it combines too many elements – culture clash, gender disparity, family dysfunction, bawdy comedy, romance threatened and thwarted, murder mystery, and the titular erotica – to avoid the occasional stumble. Missteps aside, Hollywood has already optioned Jaswal’s enticing tale, so the book will be in demand.