From Publishers Weekly
A thriving arranged-marriage bureau in contemporary India resides at the heart of Zama's charming debut. The customers who visit Mr. Ali's bureau—a project he began in retirement to pass the time—are mostly pragmatists: they look for mates based on height, complexion, caste, economic status and religion. As business picks up, Mr. Ali, a Muslim, takes on a young assistant, Aruna, a poor Hindu girl, who helps him formulate happy unions. While the bureau prospers, Mr. Ali and his wife contend with their headstrong son, a human rights advocate who worries them constantly, and Aruna faces her dismal home life and a handsome young client who may want more from her than lists of potential matches. Zama's strength is in showing the love that makes the matchmaking system possible, looking at the reciprocity, trust and devotion that underlie marriage. Though the dialogue can tend toward the wooden and some problems work out too tidily, Zama's delightful world of mid-morning tea breaks, afternoon siestas, picnics in mango groves and meddlesome aunties is a pleasant place to hang out. (June)
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Zama’s debut novel captivates the reader as an entertaining chronicle of a contemporary Indian matchmaking service and as insightful commentary on the lingering dictates of religion and class in modern India. Mr. and Mrs. Ali live in Vizag, on India’s eastern coast. Several years into his retirement, Mr. Ali grows bored, so he opens a marriage bureau, where the city’s well-to-do can come to find the perfect match for their offspring based on their unique requirements as to caste, religion, dowry amount, age, and height. The business flourishes, forcing Mr. Ali to hire an assistant, Aruna, a young woman whose family’s financial collapse forced her to give up her postgraduate studies and go to work. Aruna has a knack for making even the most difficult matches—failing only to find a young woman for a wealthy young doctor with especially picky parents. Zama sprinkles his lively narrative with morsels of everyday life and age-old traditions, from marriage and burial rituals to the making of mung-bean crepes—all of which enrich and enliven his simple and engaging plot. --Deborah Donovan