Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu [in Shelf Awareness]
What starts as seemingly light reading featuring New York family and friends headed to an Indian wedding morphs into a spectacularly entertaining examination of race, privilege, hybrid identity, family dysfunction, and maybe even a love story or five. Living in Mumbai and New York City, Diksha Basu, who used her home city of Delhi to immense success in her 2017 debut, The Windfall, returns with the dazzling Destination Wedding.
Tina Das is still single at 32 and has plateaued at her television producing job. While her flight to her cousin’s almost week-long nuptial celebration is delayed, she’s waiting in the airport lounge with her BFF-since-Yale-days Marianne, her divorced parents Neel and Radha – and her mother’s boyfriend David Smith (everyone always uses his full name). Upon arriving in Delhi, the extended family is luxuriously accommodated at a posh country club in oversize private cottages with onsite staff, including chauffeured Mercedes.
In between mandatory festivities, amorous – and otherwise – adventures await the travelers. Marianne, whose partner elected to stay home, is enjoying the groom’s brother’s attention way too much. Neel anticipates a matchmaking service-enabled date with widowed Mrs. Sethi. Radha hopes she might reconnect with Tina, who has never stopped resenting her for the divorce a decade ago. David Smith is adding to his culinary future by exploring local fare for his fusion restaurant. And then there’s Tina herself: in between watching the parading hubbub, she’s got plenty of drama balancing supposed-to-be-maybe-work with Sid, the gorgeous personal trainer from the Mumbai slums she hoped to cast for a series that went awry (who just happens to be in Delhi), and trying not to fall (again) for the charming Australian expat who already dissed her in London. What a week this will turn out to be.
Basu, who previously made keeping up with the Joneses Jhas bitingly insightful, gives a similar eyebrow-arch to her characters here. In addition to the main cast, Basu’s clever insertions revealing momentary glimpses into the lives of passing strangers – because everyone has a worthy story! – are especially affecting: a driver whose past record is hardly clear, a young lover searching for privacy in public with her boyfriend, the butler’s off-hours afterlife, Mrs. Sethi’s grumpy dessert-loving cook, a panhandler who stole the wheelchair that is his best prop, the bartender’s girlfriend who’s already someone else’s mistress. Basu balances the haves and have-nots – both socioeconomically and emotionally – with deft assurance and expert timing. Her astute, often scathing, commentaries beneath the irresistible humor transform her fiction into a must-go literary destination.
Shelf Talker: Diksha Basu’s sophomore title, Destination Wedding, provides the perfect balance between hilariously entertaining and ingeniously divulging.