Published By: Lake Union
Released On: 01/02/2023
Sophie Shah was six when she learned her mother, Nita, had died. For twenty-two years, she shouldered the burden of that loss. But when her father passes away, Sophie discovers a cache of hidden letters revealing a shattering truth: her mother didn’t die. She left.
Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected.
Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew.
Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
I knew this would be an emotional read right from the get go. And I wasn’t wrong. It’s so touching and wonderfully tender.
I will firstly say there are a few tough subjects such as death and grief, abandonment, drug addiction, relationship and money troubles. And whilst I appreciate these may be difficult things to read about, they’re handled so sensitively that they do wonders to frame the main story.
I love reading about other countries and cultures, be it fictional or fact. I’ve always admired India – I have a number of friends from there – the colours, the noise, the atmosphere, but it’s not a country I know much about. But I’ve felt Mansi Shah has depicted it in such a glorious way that even though her background is in Canada and the US (according to her online bio) you can clearly feel her love for India in this book.
I’d love to know what her inspiration for this book was. Some books you can sort of read their inspiration in the book, but this has so much heart I feel it must have come from a deeper personal place.
Everything is described so vividly, from the heat of Ahmedabad to the seemingly exotic nature of Paris, down to the food eaten and the jewellery worn. There’s a clear cultural difference between the characters which was really interesting to read.
It is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measures. She doesn’t go into this lightly, it really packs an emotional punch.
There’s a dual narrative/timeline going on with the two main characters, and whilst distinct, there was a slight blurring between the two which helped accentuate the relationship between them.
At first I thought the resolution was a bit rushed – we’d spent 200+ pages on this incredible journey, only for it to be wrapped up within a chapter or two. But now I’ve had time to think about, I think it was absolutely the right way to conclude the story.
It leaves you with questions. What does it mean to be a mother or a wife? What does it mean to be a woman in different countries? What would you be willing to give up to follow your dreams?
When I finished it, it was like having to say goodbye to an old friend.
If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be gorgeous.