Fifteen minutes ago I finished 'Gifted' and want to present a different account than most of the reviews here. I won't recap the plot about young Rumi, her critically insensitive (but loving) father, and her sad and rather bewildered mother, as many people have offered the main points. My own central point is this: Agreed, the novel isn't perfect; but, parts of it are. Lalwani is so attuned to, and articulately expressive of, the emotions felt in a family (even an atypically dysfunctional family) that the book is engaging. It represents in acutely painful terms the nightmare of emotionally missing each other that most of us experience in our families --but for us, it's a flash of a moment here and there, whereas for Rumi it's extenuated and expanded into a continuous reality. I did care about Rumi, as I read.
A previous reviewer complained that none of the characters communicated - well, right! This is Lalwani's desire, to make us look at what happens to a bright, open, unusual child who is forced to play out a parent's impossibly rigid vision for her, week after week and year after year. Rumi feels unknown and unseen, and she is. I found a lot of the negative comments to be about a focus on the trees (details), instead of the forest (overall book). Yes, the family walks to the cinema and returns by 'car'. Perhaps a taxi? Is this really a problem worth noting? Consider instead a passage Lalwani includes in this very section of the book. As the family walks along, Rumi, at this point a pre-teen, experiences some rare light-hearted, in-sync moments with her parents. Everyone highly anticipates some fun together. But then the mother becomes tense about an exchange with her husband, and the world tilts: "She [the mother] laughed, a bitter rind to the sound. Rumi held her breath in her chest and looked at Mahesh [her father], fearful that it was all going to come tumbling down, that they would now sit in the cinema in silence, Shreene's [her mother's] mouth curdled with irritation, immersed in a cycle of resentment that there was no way to break. If this was the beginning of one of Shreene's moods it would start with the silent treatment, her mother possibly abstaining from food and drink not only in the cinema but until Maresh said sorry (which, from experience, could be very late at night or even, terrifyingly, the next day). Rumi's mind juddered." How beautifully does this passage capture the anxiety felt by a young girl who gets far too little joy and fears that her current experience of it is about to evaporate forever. There are many such passages in the book. Give it a chance.