Purple Lotus, by Veena Rao

Trigger warning for domestic violence.

Veena Rao’s Purple Lotus is the story of a woman’s growth from submissive—albeit resentful—girl to a self-actualized woman. It’s not much longer than the average novel, but it contains so many years and so much plot that it felt like I dropped into the protagonist’s life as she lived through critical moments. It is a troubling, affecting read that I think will appeal to fans of biographical novels.

Even though its the twenty-first century, Tara’s life is a lot like an Austen novel. She grew up in a comfortably wealthy family of Hindus in Mangalore. She becomes a journalist, but her parents push her to marry. Because she’s in her late 20s, she’s starting to be looked at by her community as a sad spinster. Her parents passed over earlier proposals because Tara’s father refuses to pay a dowry. He calls the practice old-fashioned—not that the rest of their community sees it that way. Tara’s last chance, they believe, is to marry an Indian man who lives in the United States.

When the novel’s setting relocates to the US from Mangalore, Tara starts to reveal the long road of parental neglect and cultural pressure that led her to a bad match. I had to keep hoping that things would get better for Tara. Thankfully, even though things get very dark for her, Tara has a core of steel that she begins to discover. I really like stories about women who find the strength to demand that others treat them with the respect that they deserve. Tara is a good, smart, beautiful woman and, dammit, people need to stop pushing her around.

This novel doesn’t dive as deeply into Hinduism or Mangalore culture as Seven, by Farzana Doctor, delves into Dawoodi culture and religion, unfortunately. But Purple Lotus is definitely a rewarding read—especially since Tara does get a measure of happiness and even payback after a rough life of being ignored, left behind, and scorned.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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