June 19, 2019
Can three very different sisters living three vastly different lives come together to honor their mother’s last dying wish of traveling to India and scattering her ashes?
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Sisters, Family Drama, India
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To honor their mother’s dying wish, three Punjabi sisters travel to India on a pilgrimage to visit sacred places that are special to Mom and to scatter her ashes. Told from the three perspectives of three very different sisters, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters explores sibling relationships, modern vs traditional roles of women, secrets, and the importance of family.
First Impression: My first reaction after turning the last page was “I really like this story!” Even before I begin an analysis, the positive feeling I have at the story’s end leads me to consider this a four-star read.
Three Sisters: I loved that the Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is about three estranged sisters. I’m one of three sisters and I kept thinking about my sisters and I taking a trip like this (although we are not estranged!). As with many families, the sisters in this story live life from three vastly different perspectives. The oldest is married and soon to be a grandmother, a school principal, a take-charge type of person, a rule follower, authoritative, and well organized; the middle sister is single, a free spirit, impulsive, a risk-taker, and a struggling actress; the youngest is in an arranged marriage, soft-spoken, polite, a people pleaser, a peacemaker, and is keeping a big secret. As the story progresses, they begin to open up to each other, attempt to rebuild their relationships, try to understand and trust each other, and ultimately learn that they will have each other’s backs. I loved the realistic portrayal of the sisters and their complicated relationships, their differences, and their zany adventures. By the story’s end, I considered them friends.
Setting: A strength of the writing is the vivid descriptions of setting and culture. I felt like I was on the trip with the sisters. I think readers who have an Indian heritage or who have lived or traveled in India will make close connections with the story. I’d love to hear from you in comments! If you are an “own voices” reviewer, please link your review in the comments.
Themes: Thoughtful themes include sibling friendship, family, love, adventure, secrets, forgiveness, healing, gender inequality, understanding the past, and finding your voice.
Recommended: Overall, I loved this engaging, poignant, humorous, and heartwarming story! Recommended for readers looking for a lighter, entertaining read without sacrificing thoughtful themes, for fans of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, for those who appreciate diverse reads about Indian culture from an “own voices” author, and for book clubs looking for books with a variety of discussable topics. Ultimately, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a feel-good story.
Trigger warnings: a considered abortion, domineering husband/family
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Balli Kaur Jaswal
Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2014 and was adapted into a film at the Singapore International Festival of the Arts in 2017. Her second novel Sugarbread was a finalist for the 2015 inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize and the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize. Her third novel Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (Harper Collins/William Morrow) was released internationally to critical acclaim in March 2017. Translation rights to this novel have been sold in France, Spain, Italy, Israel, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Greece, China, Brazil, and Estonia. Film rights to Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows have been acquired by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free Productions and Film Four in the UK. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was also picked by Reese Witherspoon’s book club and The Girly Book Club in 2018. Jaswal’s new novel, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, will be released in April 2019. The novel is a dark comedy following the travels of three British-Indian sisters on a pilgrimage in India to fulfill their late mother’s final wishes.
Have you read Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by the same author?
Another story that features India as a setting is The Widows of Malabar Hill. Did you read it?
***Edited 8/18/21 to add: Another story that features two sisters on a mission (to Europe) to deliver messages from their dying grandmother is Three Words For Goodbye. Have you read it?
Do you like diverse reads about other cultures?
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