The Windfall: Had less of everything I expected

The Windfall by Diksha Basu book review

What did I think it was about?: A funny satire or comedy of manners about an Indian couple who have come into some money and moved suburbs to a richer part of Delhi. They have a son in America that they’re worried about — is he going to marry a white woman? Or earn his degree and come back to them.

What is this REALLY about?: All of the above, but less funnier than I thought it would be.

Stars: 2.5. Wasted potential.

Blurb: For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.

The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters.

Yeah, The Windfall wasn’t what I expected at all. It was slow-moving and less funny than I thought it would be.

It starts off well enough

It really does. At an uncomfortable dinner, the Jhas are telling their friends and neighbours they’re moving, and while Mr Jha is proud of the move, Mrs Jha isn’t so much. The dinner scene is a mix of cliches, which I suppose was funny. 

But as I continued… I just got bored. 

An older couple making bad style choices, or trying to hard to impress their neighbours only works so well for so long.

The pacing is SLOW, which is made worse by the fact that there are different POVs explored, instead of focusing on the Jhas. And to add insult to the Jha’s injury (so to speak) the POV of their friend, Reema who is a young widow is far more interesting.

She navigates the expectations of widows in Indian society, and yes, this is funnier and more bittersweet than anything else in this book. I’d rather the story have been hers than the Jhas. Unfortunately there’s not enough of her in this book for her to save me from utter boredom.

So why did I keep reading?

Because I hoped that the glimmers of goodness I did see would flourish later on, but then I got to the end and had to admit I fooled myself. 

Rupak, their son, and his desire to please his parents by finding the right Indian girl to settle down with instead admitting to them he’s in love with a wonderful American girl, is fun for a bit, before he becomes a  wimp who couldn’t get his shit together — either at study or generally being a decent guy until the end of the book. I suppose it’s good that he got in the end.

I wanted so much more than this. Sighs. 

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