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And Laughter Fell From The Sky: A Novel [Paperback]

Jyotsna Sreenivasan
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 11 2012

“A timely story about what matters most deeply: our quest for love and acceptance….Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s writing speaks straight to the heart.”
—Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men

And Laughter Fell from the Sky, the enthralling first novel from Jyotsna Sreenivasan, is a stirring contemporary love story about two young Indian-Americans trying to find love and their place in the world, while dealing with the confines and pressures of their culture and their families. A remarkable literary journey that carries the reader from the American heartland to the Pacific Northwest and into the teeming heart of India, And Laughter Fell from the Sky is a magnificent debut by a fresh and exciting new voice, immediately placing Sreenivasan alongside Jhumpa Lahiri, popular author of The Namesake, as an expert chronicler of the Indian-American cultural experience.

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“Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s poignant debut novel And Laughter Fell from the Sky is a moving love story that is both traditional and modern, surprising and deeply comforting - it’s not only about finding love, but a way to be true to ourselves.” (Laura Dave, author of The First Husband)

And Laughter Fell from the Sky is a timely story about what matters most deeply: our quest for love and acceptance, and our fear that we will never find that person who might give us both. Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s writing speaks straight to the heart.” (Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men)

“Insightful, hopeful, and luminescent, Sreenivasan’s novel will make you believe in the power of love to overcome all obstacles.” (Anjali Banerjee, author of Haunting Jasmine and Imaginary Men)

“Sreenivasan writes with a tender, seemingly semiautobiographical view of her subjects and clearly understands the familial and cultural pressures on second-generation Americans. . . . A witty, timely exploration of the varying definitions of success, belonging, cultural identity, and the human desire to connect.” (Booklist)

From the Back Cover

Still living at home despite a good career and financial independence, beautiful and sophisticated Rasika has always been the dutiful daughter. With her twenty-sixth birthday fast approaching, she agrees to an arranged marriage, all while trying to hide from her family her occasional dalliances with other men.

Abhay is everything an Indian-American son shouldn't be. Having spent his postcollege years living in a commune, he now hops from one dead-end job to another, brooding over what he really wants to do with his life.

Old family friends, Rasika and Abhay seem to have nothing in common, yet when the two reconnect by chance, sparks immediately fly. Abhay loves Rasika, but he knows her family would never approve. Rasika reluctantly accepts she has feelings for Abhay, but can she turn her back on the family rules she has always tried so hard to live by? The search to find answers takes Abhay and Rasika out of their native Ohio to Oregon and India, where they find that what they have together might just be something worth fighting for.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars great dilemma, frustrating ending July 2 2012
By Laura Fabiani TOP 500 REVIEWER
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked reading about the dilemma that two young Indian-Americans, Rasika and Abhay, faced when dealing with their culture's traditions and pressures, but I disliked Rasika's character and was frustrated throughout my reading of this novel. Rasika is a twenty-five year-old beautiful woman, living at home in a wealthy family. She comes across as vain, spoiled and aloof. Abhay is a smart young man who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, much to the disappointment of his father. Although he has nothing in common with Rasika, who thinks he is not good enough for her, he falls in love with her and pursues her even as she agrees to an arranged marriage with a suitor chosen by her parents.

It quickly becomes clear that Rasika doesn't know how to deal with the pressure of an arranged marriage. The only reason she agrees to it is because she will have the ideal husband'handsome, well-educated, and doting. She thinks she has good values because she has grace, dresses well and is beautiful. However, she is promiscuous and has short-lived relationships with men to get away from the pressures of her parents. This is what she does with Abhay too. She sleeps with him and then wants nothing to do with him because she doesn't want her parents to find out about her double life, and besides, he is from a different caste and therefore would never be accepted by her parents as an acceptable husband.

Abhay, on the other hand, understands why Rasika acts the way she does, why she is so messed up, and even though he knows she only used him for sex, he still wants her.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  56 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read July 16 2012
By Ris - Published on
Because Jhumpa Lahiri isn't churning out fiction fast enough to keep up with my reading pace, I often turn to other Indian American authors for books about Indian culture, coming of age in America, and the generational clash between Indian parents and their more Americanized children. It's a topic I find fascinating, partly because one of my best friends is Indian and studied and wrote about this topic for his senior thesis in college. While doing research, he and I tag-teamed on reading as many contemporary books about the Indian American experience as we could. I only wish this And Laughter Fell from the Sky by Jyotsna Sreenivasan had been around six years ago for us to talk about.

Although I had a hard time relating to Rasika, I was fascinated by (and at times truly annoyed with) her character. I can't comprehend what it would be like to have parents who wanted to arrange a marriage for me, but Rasika feels so strongly that she must follow her parents' wishes that she leads what is almost a double life. Around them she plays the part of dutiful daughter, but secretly she explores her own wishes, desires, and dreams. This conflict of selves leaves her almost wooden in her inward thoughts and feelings, and she copes by focusing on trivial matters. She likes to shop and decorate, and feels in control when picking out clothing or putting on her makeup. At first I thought this was just an expression of how vapid and materialistic Rasika was, and then I realized it was a coping mechanism used by this desperate woman who had no real control over her life.

I identified more with Abhay, who is a recent college grad without much purpose in his life. He bounces from job to job, not finding satisfaction in any of them. He thinks living in a commune is the answer, but quickly realizes that the situation is far from what he actually wants. It's not entirely clear to me why he falls in love with Rasika (other than she's beautiful), but perhaps it has something to do with wanting to return to a happier time in his life. As the older sister of a childhood friend, she reminds him of growing up, and what it felt like to be good at everything--winning competitions, gaining recognition for amazing grades, and feeling as though the possibilities for his future are endless. If that's the time in his life he wants to return to, I can't blame him.

The plot of the book is a bit rambling, and I felt as though the part where Abhay moves to Portland could have been pared down and tightened, but overall I found it compelling and I wanted to keep reading. The end isn't a surprise, although I won't reveal it here, but I still enjoyed the book overall as a fun beach read. It's interesting to read about the prospect of an arranged marriage--something that I don't imagine I will ever encounter firsthand--and seeing it through the eyes of Rasika and Abhay helped me understand more why people my age sometimes still follow this option. Although the characters' dialogue was at times stilted and formulaic, I think Sreenivasan has potential as an author, and I'm excited to see what she writes next.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A touching love story and fascinating exploration of Indian culture July 6 2012
By Live2Cruise - Published on
*An advance copy of this book was read and reviewed for the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program*

I could not put this book down once I started it. It's a beautifully written story about two Indian-Americans, Rasika and Abhay, who are drawn to each other in spite of formidable obstacles. Abhay is struggling to find his place in the world, and Rasika is trying to please her parents by accepting an arranged marriage. Rasika and Abhay's growing feelings for each other are realistically written, as each struggles with what they should do versus what their hearts really want.

I love books about India and found myself fascinated by the exploration of Indian culture and traditions. The impact of technology and Westernization on traditional Indian family practices, as well as the unique experience of being an Indian-American and straddling two very different cultures, were themes that added a richness and depth to an already compelling love story.

At times each of the characters was somewhat frustrating-- Rasika occasionally came across as shallow and Abhay in his less shining moments as directionless, but through it all the reader was able to maintain a strong connection to these flawed, but completely human characters. It was easy to be swept up into this story and to relate to the characters. A very quick read with a great deal of depth.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Light, Unsurprising Sept. 3 2013
By S. L. Smith - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Culture and love play out a familiar battle in Jyotsna Sreenivasan's familial novel And Laughter Fell From The Sky. Rasika is superficial and arrogant; her desperation stems from wanting to please her Indian family while acting out her American longings. She expects to find her admirable place in the world by marrying Mr. Just Right, who will be arranged by her parents before she turns 26. She looks to marriage to quell her inner conflict and reinforce her superiority and supreme high quality. (These character traits are mentioned many times throughout the book.)

Abhay in seemingly more spiritual despite disavowing his own Indian background; his unrest is rooted in searching for a single path toward happiness. He has been inexplicably attracted to Rasika since high school.

When Rasika's and Abhay's meandering paths cross again after college, the outcome is predictable and padded superficially. Any resultant loft brings to my mind Young Adult Fiction more than comparisons to any other specific wildly popular author. I never became engrossed, despite the insertion of heady topics like spirituality versus religion, impulse versus intuition, the collision of castes, alternative ecology, overpopulation, possible anorexia, and even The Creepy Uncle.

As Rasika and Ahbay meandered toward their predictable conclusions, I just wanted to be done with them both.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet romance with appealing characters Sept. 3 2013
By E.B. Bristol - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Abhay is a college graduate who has recently spent a year on a commune, and who is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, which is complicated by the fact that his Indian-American parents are baffled and dismayed by his lack of direction. Rasika, who went to school with Abhay, has a successful career in banking (plus is a seemingly virginal and dutiful daughter), but is currently letting her parents arrange a marriage for her - preferably with a tall, light-skinned man who has a career in law, medicine or computer science. When the two meet up as the story begins and start spending time together, their relationship begins to deepen, alarming Rasika who doesn't want any distractions from her chosen path. In order to find out what matters most for both of them: the perfect job for Abhay and the perfect marriage for Rasika, they will travel to Portland, Oregon and later to Bangalore, India, with many adventures and some growing up along the way.

The reader will likely figure out the ending early on, but if you enjoy romances with an ethnic flavor, a hearty dollop of humor, characters who are flawed but likeable and two protagonists who may take the wrong turn en route to achieving their dreams but whose hearts are in the right place, you should love "And Laughter Fell From the Sky." I did.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indian-American Identity Struggles Sept. 3 2013
By Smart4 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Even though other reviewers are commenting about 'shallow characters', I'd have to say the opposite is true. They were honest, real, and filled with the confusion we all feel, young or old. Sometimes we get stuck trying to please everyone. Other times, we just don't know what we want to do or be. This story is about the struggles of two young people trying to find their place in the world. Both are Indian-American and have so many cultural issues to face. By trying to find their own way in life without alienating their families, they face confusion, alienation, and evolve into stronger individuals.

I enjoyed the glimpse of different cultural family dynamics and the struggle with change. I also enjoyed the way the author brought attention to these issues immigrant families, and even their families back in their home country, face on a daily basis. Sometimes we take the American 'anything goes' mentality too far and forget that other cultures still try to hold tight to their traditions. Often, for good reason. Yet, at other times, changing old ways can be an improvement. Compromise can lead to happiness for everyone involved.
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