Rakesh Satyal * Picador * May 2, 2017 * 384 Pages
No One Can Pronounce My Name is the story of a group of Indian immigrants living in Cleveland, Ohio. Forty-something Harit is lonely and depressed after the death of his beloved older sister. He’s doing his best to adequately care for his old and grief-stricken mother, but he’s struggling. To get out of the house, Harit begins working in the men’s department of a local clothing store, and, luckily, he finally finds a friend in Teddy, his odd but affable gay coworker.
Not too far away, in another struggling household, Ranjana has just sent her only child, Prashant, off to college. Prashant is a mostly devoted son and top of his class in chemistry, but love (or is it lust?) has him rethinking his life goals and direction. Not that Ranjana is noticing. She’s too concerned with her own general boredom in life and, especially, in her marriage. (Finding out that her husband is probably cheating on her certainly doesn’t help things.) Ranjana’s dissatisfaction eventually motivates her to find a job working as a receptionist at a medical office. It’s through this job, and a series of crazy, seemingly unrelated events, that she finally meets Harit.
If you think you know where this book is going, I can assure you that you don’t. This storyline is unique, fresh, and unpredictable. I may have seen certain plot points coming, but only after having been surprised a few times first. The characters are intriguing, too. Both Harit and Ranjana are easy to empathize with, but they are also quirky and imperfect. I felt invested in their journeys from the (almost) start.
So why only three stars? Well, this book is tough to get into and tough to complete. At almost 400 pages, it’s about twice as long as it should be. Yes, the premise is great, the characters great. But dear God, it goes on forever. (Ranjana and Harit don’t even MEET each other until the last third of the book. That is A LOT of build up, my friends.) I’m a fast reader, especially when it comes to fiction, but reading this one, especially in the beginning, was damn near torturous.
Honestly, I wish I could give this book more stars! It has so much good stuff going for it, but it really needed to be cut down by at least a third. I wish the story had been tighter and more concise without all the thought-by-thought commentary from so many different characters.
Advanced Reader Copy provided through Net Galley.