Customer Reviews: The Dowry Bride
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In modern-day middle class India, Megha Ramnath, a twenty-one-year old bride of one year, awakens from an exhausted sleep to discover her husband and mother-in-law plotting a gruesome death for her, the mother-in-law furious that Megha's dowry has not been forthcoming. An overweight, homely woman, Chandramma chose the educated young woman for her beauty and dowry, but has since come to loathe the compliant girl, her natural beauty making the older woman even uglier by comparison. At first disbelieving of what she is witnessing outside the wood shed, Megha is petrified, finally taking flight before her devious relatives can act. Racing through the night, Megha can only think of one destination and that one risky, knowing her own family will send her back to her murderous in-laws.

In an evolving society that values educated women, Megha is caught in a world where differing belief systems are practiced by families who sometimes choose traditional ways, restricting the influences of modern society, clinging to the practices of generations. As a dowry bride, Megha falls into a family that views her as a servant, her worth tied the amount of money her family can provide. At the mercy of her mother-in-law, Megha is a pawn and can be disposed of without much investigation into her disappearance. Escaping to the one place the family will not think to look, her temporary protector is of sufficient wealth to avoid the prying eyes of strangers. Yet after weeks of hiding, Megha again falls prey to those who would harm her. In a mix of drama, from Megha's impulsive flight to her constant fear of discovery, to humor and romance, the girl's spirit remains constant.

Targeting a very special audience, the author points out in an afterward that most Indians write literary novels that are "beautiful but don't always reach large segments of the reading public." Bantwal hopes to reach a mainstream audience, one that expects "romance, mystery, sadness and humor". With that in mind, the author accomplishes her goal, a horrific tale grounded in reality but spiced with romance and drama. The fact is that dowry brides are often the unacknowledged victims of a social convention that turns a blind eye to their plight. The Dowry Bride shines a light on an ancient practice that still exists. Although Megha's troubles are tempered with the promise of romance and an opportunity for a changed future, the reason for this protagonist's dilemma is based in uncomfortable reality. Luan Gaines/2007.
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on September 3, 2007
As someone who has lived in India, and had educated friends and relatives succumb to the demands for dowry ( some very subtle, some not so subtle), DOWRY BRIDE, is a book we needed. The issue has permeated all socio-economic strata's and faith groups in India and some brides do burn for not bringing enough of a dowry, while others live with taunts, abuse and discrimination for not having brought the laundry lists of goods demanded. Female infanticide in India has its roots in traditions such as this. Woven into fiction, 'The Dowry Bride' will perhaps do for dowry what 'Kite Runner' did for Afghani kids. Highly recommended!
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on October 31, 2007
This book was an amazing accidental find! The author did a wonderful job of weaving a heartfelt story with color and words and facts about the culture of India. It shows the strength of a country with many old traditions and manages to keep the pages turning so quickly you feel as though you are in her world. And the message is life filled with new beginnings and hope!
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on February 29, 2012
As an Indian growing up in India, I was expecting this drama story to be more fulfilling with character development, etc. Note, that I will not give away any spoilers in my review (Don't you hate when people do that).

Characters: The concept is shocking and intriguing and compels you to keep reading to find out more about Meghna. You feel for the character and her position and want to be involved to help her desparately. SO kudos author for making the character(s) relatable. However, I will say that some characters and their relationships were left so unexplained and so empty that you often felt like they were just fillers.

Plot: Overall, the story engages you to keep reading to know what happens next. There are parts of the story that are so all over the place that make you scratch your head like, why did I need to know this. The ending was so quickly drawn upon. The whole book kept me reading and reading and the ending just fizzled out. Like it was rushed.

It was a nice read but nothing different or new about this story. And you had a hard time really understanding what period this story took place sometimes given its modern city setting with a traditional character background and turmoil. This was sometimes contradicting to me.
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on November 19, 2015
The Dowry Bride is the story of a young 21 year old girl who runs away from her home when she realizes that her in-laws and husband are trying to kill her. How she manages to survive; where does she find the support and help to fight the odds and win. The book cover was the first thing that attracted me to the book and of course the topic of dowry, an ill that ails our society. It is a very aesthetically pleasing cover and the fire on the cover following the footsteps of a bride was a big pull for me to read the book as was the story.

This is also a book that made me think and wonder what exactly I wanted to share in my review. The Dowry Bride is a reflection of our society, urging us to take action and change our ways.

The twist in the plot is when she finds refuge in the home of a relative of her husband who is secretly in love with her. Kunal comes across as a solid, sensible and calm guy. He is her glimmer of hope, the one supporter for Megha to start a new life. I enjoyed reading their interactions and discussions. The caring nature was just what she needed to blossom. He was truly her knight in shining armor.

The story very astutely highlights the pitfalls our young girls face. How a beautiful, educated girl gets married to a lying, spineless guy. The tyrannical mother-in-law and total lack of support from her own family add to her woes as does the never ending, back-breaking work. The society that looks upon young girls as burdens to be shed off, rather than to be nurtured as family members.

Shobhan paints a true picture, scores of women face all this and more through their lives, just surviving and hoping for a change. Many are not so lucky as Megha and countless have lost their lives. The book creates awareness about this heinous crime and shares the story that could have been any young girls.

The character of her mother-in-law, Amma and her spineless husband Suresh are well etched, realistic. The cruel streak in Chandramma is so obvious that even I felt quite upset and angry; any one would wish to move out. The diabolical plan devised by them both is the catalyst in Megha’s escape. It is true; fear is a big motivator as well as a hindrance. She runs but knows not what to do next. Her escape is temporary since her in-laws are still searching for her. The lack of Dowry, the greed for more money has ruined many a lives.

Megha herself is a strong girl; even though she feels unsure of herself yet with Kunal’s support she not only survives but also achieves her goals. The book works on many levels. The premise is excellent; the escape is adventures as is her acceptance of her feelings for Kunal. Add to it the struggle she faces, along with disapproving relatives makes for a good read. The book was a bit slow for me in the middle wherein she is just holed up at Kunal’s house. I felt as if she is not trying to do anything but the situation changes soon enough. vcfx
The book has excellent language and the conversations just flow.

The plot has a lot of hidden twists with Ajji, Kunal’s grandmother and Appaji who supported Megha even though he could not do much. Attacks, goons, spies and enough hidden secrets to put any Saas-Bahu serial to shame The Dowry Bride has a solid story as well. Meghna manages to survive but just; she starts living after she almost dies. Their presence makes a lot of difference to Megha’s future, as well as adding a human touch to her story.

The author ends the story on a optimistic note while sharing a message of positivity making it a very apt ‘feel good read’. The book evokes many emotions and even though it talks of an evil practice it left me with a encouraging frame of mind. A book with a message of hope and a whole lot of love.

(©InderpreetKaur. I got a copy of the book from Fingerprint Publishing, the views are my own.)
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VINE VOICEon July 25, 2011
The author has delivered her first novel developed from a short story in creative writing class. I found the book to be an exhilerating adventure about Megha, a young Dowry Indian bride, who is married to Suresh. It is an unhappy marriage unfilled by lies, deceit, treachery, and broken promises on both sides of the marital aisle. Despite Megha's education and beauty, she is married off to an unattractive, dull husband because his family is higher in the caste or class system in India.

I don't know much about India but this story is possible to occur. The beginning details Megha's escape in breathtaken fashion. You're on the edge of your seat for a while to see what a mother-in-law from hell can do to you. Megha has done everything possible to make the marriage a happy one with an unwilling partner, Suresh, who dutifully follows his mother's command. In that household, Amma, the mother-in-law, rules with an iron fist of abuse, criticism, and horror to her family and servants as well.

Megha's escape brings her to her husband's cousin but it doesn't mean that she's free. Divorce is unthinkable in their culture. Amma doesn't want her family to have shame with a divorce. She wants her son to marry a woman with great wealth.

But as the story unfolds about Megha's marital life, we learn more about her in-laws in order to understand the family dynamics. Up until the end, I was wondering why Amma mistreated her daughter-in-law so harshly. There were signs but not for the revelation at the end of the novel.

The author is a first time novelist and I rarely don't give more than three stars to first-timers. Her writing kept me wanting to know more about the outcome of the story. Every chapter was a pleasure and adventure in Megha's life and the possible danger from a mother-in-law.

If there is a weakness in the story, we need to know the root of Amma's horrible behavior and we do get some idea with the family secret in the end. I don't know why other reviewers have chosen to write negative reviews.

Since I don't know the situation in India, I found this book to be quite an adventure and worthy of reading. I found Megha to be sympathetic maybe too sympathetic. She needed to be a little flawed and imperfect in my opinion. Her husband Suresh never rises to develop at all but still the minor flaws in this novel doesn't hurt the book at all.
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on November 1, 2012
For me, Dowry bride was a page turner. I stayed awake late for two nights because it was soo hard to put down. It is unbelievable that, in this day and age, there are cultures that allow persons to put finances before their children's happiness. Excellent reading.
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on January 12, 2012
I was appalled to read the caste based agenda that the author is pedaling in not so subtle manner in this novel. At one hand the author wish to show the plight of Indian brides caused due to dowry system. On the other hand the author conveniently encourages the caste based prejudices. Here are a few characters that author has developed

1. Lingayya (low caste bhangi): A rapist who had no morals because "he was a bhangi" Only job he could do was to clean toilets.

2. Chandramma (half low caste): An interesting character who is raised with love and care in a Brahmin family. Because she had the low caste blood in her veins, she grows up to be not just ugly but also a psychopath. She likes to harm small animals as well as her daughter-in-law. This half bred is ugly and has no redeeming quality.

3. Suresh (quarter low caste): No good of a man who doesn't know how to love his wife. Makes love and falls asleep.

Now lets talk about the pure brahmins. There is no fault you can find in that perfect world. Megha, Ramnath, Ajji you name it and they are all made of high moral character. Then comes Kiran who is pure Brahmin and is coincidentally also perfect.

Imagine if you read a novel in which all the African Americans and their descendants are painted as evil and all Whites are perfect. Would you buy that story line in this day and age. Those are the characters that this novel has.

I am very disappointed.
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on September 16, 2008
Within the first few minutes of her debut novel, Shobhan Bantwal manages to drag the reader, kicking and screaming, into the dark life of the Ramnath family's young bride, Megha. The soon-to-be victim of a murder plot by her husband and mother in law, Megha runs from her home into the arms of the only person she feels can keep her safe.

In the pages that ensue, the author elicits feelings of intense fear, passion, and complete uncertainty. She covers an issue still quietly occurring and being ignored in India - dowry killings.

At the beginning of her novel, Shobhan talks about the beauty of India, its culture, and its people, and the tragedy that these horrible crimes are taking place and often being ignored. She manages, however, to use the issue to turn her story into a suspenseful romance, where Megha finds herself in many (interesting) positions she never imagined she would find herself in!

An interesting read that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end, Shobhan has done the romance novel market a favour with The Dowry Bride.
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on April 10, 2009
Because I am writing a thesis on the progress of Indian women, it took me a while to find a novel, which was based solely on the dowry Bride Issue. And I was relieved to find it in Shoban Bantwal's Dowry Bride. But, YES, there are going to be a lot of BUTS because Bantwal uses prejudice and makes the villain, i.e., the mother-in-law, a bad product of violent rape from an untouchable? This was a disappointed to me and the ending was too quick, and really was a diane steel novel rather than a substantial novel like Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. There are many reasons behind why a man's family is cruel to the bride, but casteism seemed like an easy and definitely a bad approach to justify the mother-in-law's cruel nature. Although I do not believe in casteism and do not belong to the untouchable caste, but give them a break. Was not B.R. Ambedkar an untouchable? A serious disappointment. Also, the actual scene where the heroine's life is threatened is barely mentioned, the rest is a romantic and odd story of a romance between the husband's cousin and the heroine!
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