The Windfall: A Novel, by Diksha Basu
Publication: Crown; June 27, 2017
About the book:
A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to “make it” in modern India.
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. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.
I have pondered The Windfall for awhile after reading and have really dug deep in my reflections on the novel. I will begin with saying that Diksha Basu is an extremely talented writer with impeccable characterization. Moreover, she included many modern and relevant themes regarding social status, appearances, and happiness. The problem is, I wasn’t crazy about this story. But let me explain the main reason – at the ripe, old age of 42 (lol), I’m beginning to realize that I am not a fan of satire, regardless of the subject. I have an odd, and at times, quite sick sense of humor. However, I’m just not a big satire fan, which is basically what The Windfall is.
Anyhow, this novel is about the Jha family and the changes that occur since becoming very wealthy. Mr. Jha worked very hard developing a web site that he was later able to sell for a ton of money. So, of course, he wants to move his family to the super-wealthy part of town. As the story unfolds, the reader sees Mr. Jha almost obsessed with the material upgrades of their lives, while his wife is struggling to see the relevance of his new purchases, new life, desire to be a member of the wealthiest country club, etc. In the meantime, their son Rupak is away at school in the U.S. and is not quite as successful as his parents would like to think. Between the changes of moving, issues with Rupak, and their own inner struggles about their new life, what unfolds is a big old mess.
Do you remember the Clampetts and Beverly Hillbillies? If you are old enough to know what I’m talking about, The Windfall sort of reminded me of that, but with a modern twist and set in India. Mr. Jha became so obsessed with social status and material possessions that he was losing sight of his true self. Mrs. Jha tried to maintain some sort of normalcy, yet even though she wasn’t initially as materialistic as her husband, she began revealing sides of her that obviously longed for acceptance with their new, wealthy neighbors. The there was poor Rupak that couldn’t decide if he was coming or going. On one hand he wanted to please his parents and make them proud, but on the other hand, his true self was trapped inside screaming to be heard.
The Windfall is one of those novels that I can’t honestly recommend or not. The author is amazingly talented, there is not doubt about it. I think it just depends on what you want from a novel, topic, genre, etc. Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it and have discovered Diksha Basu.
*Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review!