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Genres: Nonfiction, World or cultural
Indie Bound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“Made in America. Outsourced to India. At Home with Herself?
A charming yet honest memoir of one Upper West side housewife who finds herself saying good-bye to Starbucks and all her notions of “home” when she and her husband are outsourced to Hyderabad. Jenny Feldon imagined life in India as a glitzy yoga whirlwind. Instead she found buffalo-related traffic jams. Jenny struggled to fight the depression, bitterness, and anger as her sense of self and her marriage began to unravel. And it was all India’s fault–wasn’t it? Equally frustrating, revealing, and amusing, this is the true story of an accidental housewife trapped in the third world.”
This was a tough review to write. I finished the book a couple weeks ago but had a hard time writing the less than positive review. I enjoy travel memoirs and books where people learn how to appreciate what they have.
Karma Gone Bad tells Jenny’s story of going from a twenty-something Upper West Sider who does yoga, buys designer clothes and drinks Starbucks to an American housewife in a third world country. Jenny doesn’t choose to live in India but follows her husband there when he feels he doesn’t have a choice in order to keep his job.
It’s an understatement to say that Jenny doesn’t adapt well initially. The crowded streets, the cows and buffalo walking amongst the people, the crazy driving and the poor kids, women and children begging for food and money is understandably a culture shock to someone raised in America. I remember being shocked when I went to India but it also deeply moved me and made me appreciative for the life we have.
The story drags on too long about just how miserable and stressed out Jenny is living in India. It felt like a spoiled little rich girl whining about every little thing she missed in America. The tone goes from her bring shocked and empathetic to the poverty to being superior to those “little brown faces” that stare at her for being blond haired and blue eyed that they have never seen before.
When Jenny sees her Indian home for the first time, she lets her little dog run through the puja room. The room is where Hindus have idols of their deities and conduct prayers and meditation. I found it offensive and disrespectful that Jenny, even after learning what the room is for, wanted to make the room her dog’s bedroom “once we got rid of all the clutter.” Since when are Gods clutter? After that incident, I grew increasingly more offended by Jenny’s description of the Indian people and their country. She started blaming India for the problems in her marriage, which I found a bit immature.
By the time Jenny came around to appreciate India, its people and its culture, I was already struggling to finish the book and her revelations came too late. I really enjoyed the book after its turning point, I just wish she’d gotten there sooner.
What I did enjoy about the book was Jenny’s descriptions about the festivals and the places she visited. Her recounting of seeing the Taj Mahal was beautiful and it took my breath away as it did hers. The author did write well, I certainly felt like I was there in India watching her story unfold, I just wish there was more focus on the happy times in India and less of the complaining.
“Lately I’d felt trapped between wanting things to feel exotic and wanting them to be just like home.”
“At first, the monsoons were as beautiful as I’d imagined. The skies filled with rainbows that peeked from behind power lines and halfdemolished buildings, the dichotomy making the majestic arches all the more magical. In the mornings, children ran from their tent villages, racing into the fields holding lumps of soap made from sandalwood oil. Boys and girls chased each other across the muddied earth and lathered themselves with giant clouds of suds. The air was full of the soap’s woodsy fragrance and the hypnotizing sound of their laughter.”
“In India, there are plenty of reasons to relax and take time off. It’s one of my favorite things about this country. There’s always something to celebrate.”
“Was this what karma really meant? To travel halfway around the world only to find out I was nothing, and no one, in face of people who knew real struggle and real sorrow and real joy? My whole life folded out in front of me, as silly and insubstantial as a game of Candyland. Sugary sweet, all lip gloss and handbags and self-important dreams, with obstacles as imaginary as the Lollipop Woods and Gum Drop Mountain. In the face of the tent city’s true reality, my whole existence felt meaningless.”
Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge – India