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No One Can Pronounce My Name: A Novel Hardcover – May 2, 2017
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“A deeply charming tale of unexpected friendship.”―Entertainment Weekly (Must List)
"It says something about both the reach of Satyal's story and his wry skill as a storyteller, that, while I was reading, I kept thinking of Barbara Pym...No One Can Pronounce My Name explores the politics of sexual identity, as well as the immigrant and first-generation American experience, but, unfashionable as it may sound, the novel's greater achievement lies in the compassionate, comic way it explores the universal human experience of loneliness.”―Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s “Fresh Air”
"Rakesh Satyal’s funny, big-hearted book is an interrogation of the possibilities of immigrant literature....Because Satyal’s cast is so diverse it’s easy to miss that he’s giving us the universality we hear so much about."―The New Republic
“Gentle, funny and utterly charming.”―The Seattle Times
"A big-hearted, hopeful, and often very funny novel about the unpredictability of love . . . as well as a celebration of how, in America, it's never too late to rethink who you are―or who you might become. Satyal has created a set of characters you'll cheer for."―Hanya Yanagihara, New York Times bestselling author of The People in the Trees and A Little Life
"Affecting, kindhearted, and infectiously readable, No One Can Pronounce My Name is full of memorable characters joined by their yearning to belong. Rakesh Satyal spins a funny and unpredictable multigenerational tale that glitters with warmth and wisdom."―Maria Semple, New York Times bestselling author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and Today Will Be Different
"This humane, moving, and very funny book offers something precious and rare: a novel devoted to the life-giving bond of friendship. Through a quintessentially American tale of misfits and dreamers, Rakesh Satyal has given us a fresh vision of America: a country of strangers seeking connection, of households lit with contrary desires, held together by resourceful and enduring love."―Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
"No One Can Pronounce My Name is a warm, life-affirming story of reckoning with past secrets, forging unexpected bonds, and finding the strength to be yourself. This big-hearted, utterly charming novel explores immigrant experience and family life with humor and compassion."―Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You
"Satyal expertly describes the everyday struggles that define his characters, and he elevates the extraordinary moments of normal life in this skilled and thought-provoking novel."―Booklist (starred review)
"A funny, uplifting novel that delivers emotionally complex characters."―Kirkus Reviews
"Rakesh Satyal writes with both tender empathy and sly wit, and his characters are vulnerable, admirable, and idiosyncratic. No One Can Pronounce My Name beautifully explores the challenges of asserting individuality in the face of societal and cultural proscriptions. Movingly and believably, Ranjana and Harit find each other, and then, thanks to their lovely friendship, themselves."―Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and The Astral
"Satyal captures his characters’ experiences within a close-knit Indian community, rounded out with excellent supporting characters...who have their own stories to tell, resulting in a vivid, complex tale."―Publishers Weekly
“Insightful....an enjoyable read with an East Indian flair.”―Library Journal
About the Author
RAKESH SATYAL is the author of the novel Blue Boy, which won the 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction and the 2010 Prose/Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. Satyal was a recipient of a 2010 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and two fellowships from the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony. His writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, Out magazine, and The Awl. A graduate of Princeton University, he has taught in the publishing program at New York University and has been on the advisory committee for the annual PEN World Voices Festival. He lives in Brooklyn.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ranjana has just sent her only child off to college, and she wonders what she has to look forward to now. She's starting to suspect that her husband is having an affair, and she finds herself seeking solace in food. The only thing that truly gives her pleasure is the time she spends each night writing paranormal romance stories, but as much joy as they bring her, she's even too embarrassed to share the stories with the members of her writers' group!
Harit decided a long time ago he'd never be the type of man to marry and have the life everyone expects men to, and perhaps he was destined to be alone. After the sudden death of his beloved sister Swati, he and his elderly mother are consumed by grief. He begins dressing up in Swati's sari each night and pretending he is his sister, in an effort to help his nearly-blind mother find some comfort. The only time he leaves the house is to go to his job at a department store every day, and it is only through the efforts of his flamboyant coworker and friend, Teddy, that he even finds the strength to go out for a drink every now and again. (He doesn't actually find the strength at first; Teddy browbeats him into it.)
A series of events leads to Ranjana and Harit meeting in an unlikely place, and the two quickly strike up a friendship that surprises them both. Not only does Ranjana feel appreciated, needed, cared about, but she feels as if she is helping Harit in some way. And Harit feels that their friendship has finally allowed him to come to terms with so many things he has kept bottled up for so long, and perhaps realize that he is a special person and is worthy of being loved for who he is.
Friendship can be one of the most incredible gifts people give one another, not only for the companionship and confidences shared, but friendship often empowers people to feel they should pursue their dreams, and know that they have supporters behind them. To watch Ranjana and Harit both blossom under the light of their friendship, and realize the value of those around them where they had almost taken them for granted before is a beautiful thing, and one of the pieces I loved about this book.
While I've presented this as a fairly simple story, in Satyal's hands it has such depth, humor, emotion, and complexity that readers should discover for themselves. There is such nuance in his storytelling, and you can feel the love he has for his characters, even when they're acting in less-appealing ways.
I love books that surprise you, not necessarily with plot twists, but the way the author lets the book unfold, and pulls you in until you want nothing more than to spend more time with the characters, in the midst of the story they have created. That was the way I felt while reading No One Can Pronounce My Name. I felt as if I were a witness to all that occurred as a result of Ranjana and Harit's friendship, but more importantly, I felt lucky that Satyal took me on this journey. I felt his heart in this book alongside those of his characters.
The author and Picador Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
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 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.
Thank you to Picador and Net Galley for the advanced reading copy.
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