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Invisible Lives Paperback – September 5, 2006
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In Banerjee's sophomore effort, she introduces Lakshmi Sen, a young woman who has the uncanny ability to read people's emotions. She puts her gift to use in her mother's Seattle sari shop--finding fabrics that ease a bride's cold feet, evoke a widow's first love, and even soothe a young autistic boy's fears. Her notoriety draws the interest of a Bollywood star, but whenever the actress' charming chauffeur Nick is around, Lakshmi has trouble keeping her own emotions in check. Will she allow herself to fall for Nick or marry the Indian doctor her family has chosen for her? Banerjee captures the struggle between tradition and modernity in this accessible chick-lit tale. Readers will appreciate that Banerjee doesn't choose sides and offers a variety of perspectives through her characters. The book has a romantic, magical quality that isn't a bit treacly. It's exciting to see how much Banerjee has grown since her debut, Imaginary Men (2005). Aleksandra Kostovski
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About the Author
Anjali Banerjee was born in Kolkata, India, and grew up in Canada and California. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Visit her website at www.anjalibanerjee.com.
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Banerjee's light, breezy language makes this an enjoyable read and a fast one. Her words float off the page and into her readers' hearts, and while her work may not necessarily have the depth of language or story that, say, Jhumpa Lahiri's might, it's wonderful all the same in its own way. Both Invisible Lives and Imaginary Men have the right mix of culture, humor, and enough of the universal condition of following one's heart in love to appeal to any reader.
However, because of her age, her mother worries that her daughter remains single so she arranges a match with a friend. Reluctantly as an obedient daughter and to honor her late father, Lakshmi accepts her mother's arrangement. However, as fate (and romance novels) would have it, she meets chauffeur Nick Dunbar and knows he is the one for her because her ability to look into hearts fail whenever she is around him.
Readers will enjoy this contemporary romance starring a delightful likable young woman who balances having one foot in the modern world and another in her heritage. Lakshmi's dilemma feels real as she wants to honor the desires of her mother and her late father, but loves Nick. This is a fine tale that rings true as a genuine chick lit Bollywood style.
Running a sari shop set in scenic Canada, Lakshmi has the opportunity to provide people with drapery which makes tremendous but subtle differences to their lives, via selling them appropriate sari's and dispensing advice..
Because of the close inspiration of Mistress of Spices; a novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and eventually a movie from Gurinda Chadar starring Aishwarya; I have spent nearly 2 hours researching into both authors (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni & Anjali Banerjee) to discover whether they are related.
Unfortunately even after extensive research and comparison, various biographies and their individual websites I am unable to conclusively say either way!
However, the reference was not idle.
The style of Mistress of Spices, itself reminiscent of Like Water for Chocolate (another successful novel turned movie), Invisible Lives weaves a story of mythical abilities with everyday lives to create a "modern fable".
As for the story itself, both style, protagonist & supporting cast - it was fascinating.
Following a fairly standard plot - Laskhmi living up to the dreams and expectations of her family, & still taking a path she can live with - it is the intimate details of what is to me foreign lives I found so fascinating.
Books written by people of different heritages can provide such an illuminating glimpse into their world - they write in their own unique voice and are mostly not even aware of it.
In example, using phrases which are never translated, referring to concepts which are alien to other cultures and implying expectations that may not necessarily be understood.
Nevertheless, the plot is as simple as any other light & fluffy romance, and if like me you are a fan of such gentle pleasant reading, then you also may find yourself awake well into the night concluding this story.
Emotionally, one does not invest in Lakshmi Sen - and I found the changes in her love interest towards the end of the book, created by the author to defer our sympathies to him, to be quite artifical and unconvincing.
A further observation is on the introduction of a character called Asha Rae - a big bollywood film actress who in the story is marrying, and comes to Lakshmi's shop to purchase saris for her wedding party.
In what is clearly a parody of Aishwarya Rai (the already mentioned Bollywod superstar and heroine of Mistress of Spices), Anjali Banerjee reveals a little bitterness and this reader speculated upon cause of said. ???!!!
Light and frothy, with enough emotional content to keep you reading to the end, Invisible Lives was a very satisfying read.
kotori Sept 2007