Balli Kaur Jaswal
Published April 30, 2019
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking "good" sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.To honor their late mother's last wish, sisters Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina Shirgill find themselves on a spiritual journey in India. Along the way, they learn more about each other and themselves.
On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.
Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again. - from Goodreads
I loved meeting the Shergill sisters; they were each so unique and had their own voice. Rajni is the oldest by quite a few years; she's the most motherly one, super-organized and kind of strict. Jezmeen is the middle sister, a struggling actress. Shirina is the youngest; she recently married and moved to Australia. Each sister is going through their own personal crisis as they start their journey in India; Rajni's and Jezmeen's issues are spelled out early on, but we are kind of kept in the dark about Shirina's for awhile. None of them really want to talk about it with their sisters; they just want to finish the tasks on their mother's list and leave.
The author did a wonderful job of creating three distinct characters and also creating such realistic sibling relationships. Many siblings seem to have this uncanny ability to get along one minute and hate each other the next, and the Shergill sisters are no different. It was interesting to learn, in bits and pieces, how events from their childhood really shaped their lives and led them to this point.
The cultural aspects of the book were so interesting; India is not a setting I often see in the books I read, so the tour of northern India I took during this story was fascinating. The food, the spiritual centers, how women are expected to behave - I feel like I learned so much. Shirina's marriage also added insight into traditional versus modern Indian tendencies.
Although Jezmeen added moments of lightness and the ending saw movement towards hope, for the most part this book felt very heavy, almost verging on depressing. Between the sisters fighting, their personal issues, and learning about their difficult childhood, there weren't very many moments of happiness. However, that surprisingly didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.