What is this about?: Nic and Jess search for evidence that Jen, Nic’s deceased wife, hid evidence about a black market organ transplant ring in India. She was murdered for her investigation and Nic, in his grief, is now an alcoholic, working on a cruise ship when Jess finds him, saying she has his wife’s heart and that Jen is speaking to her. It’s very Return to Me, if it really had been an X-Files case.
What else is it about?: The story is driven by Nic and Jess, their pasts and what brought them to be running around America looking for evidence. It’s character-driven goodness.
Should you read: Yes. Granted, the character-driven goodness has flaws, but it’s a solid story.
Blurb: Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.
Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.
Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy. She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.
Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.
This book is essentially a version of the movie Return to Me, with an investigative, X-Files-ish twist. I say that because I want to feel excited or exhilarated or heartbroken about this story, but I really don’t.
I’m not saying it’s not a solid story, it is. It’s uneven more than anything, I think. Let me set the scene: Nic is a cruise ship doctor, and well on his way (if not already there) to being an alcoholic. His wife, Jen, was murdered in front of him in Mumbai, and he fled everything in his life after that in order to grieve. Which, understandable, right?
Then into his life comes Jess, this woman of mystery who says she has Jen’s heart and that Jen is communicating with Jess to find the evidence she left behind that would expose the men behind an black market organ trafficking ring, and investigation that resulted in her death. Jess knows things about Nic, enough to make him believe her story and so they begin their trip to the US, to Jen’s things in storage there in the hope of finding this evidence.
The beauty of this story is in those moments that they’re learning about each other — his grief, her fears and trying to figure each other out. You know a romance is coming, but it’s an organic feeling — even with the whole bit about Jess having his dead wife’s heart.
Even better, is the stopover at his childhood home, meeting his parents and extended family and the wealth of complicated relationships hinted at there that are never fully explored and are a missed opportunity for some serious goodness here, I think.
Instead, this secondary plot of the investigation into Jen’s murder and the evidence she’s hiding results in some plot points that weaken the narrative as a whole. I can’t decide if I want them removed or I want them more fleshed out. I just know what’s in the book didn’t work for me at all because of that.
Overall, it’s a perfectly lovely, good read for what it is. I just think it didn’t need the investigative hook to it.
What about you? Do you stick with books that have an obvious hook to make a fairly straightforward story more twisty? Are you tired of books that need this hook to make you pick them up?