- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton (May 29 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393081605
- ISBN-13: 978-0393081602
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.5 x 21.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,205,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Invitation: A Novel Hardcover – May 29 2012
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Starred review. ...Cherian’s straightforward storytelling is riveting and rarely goes amiss... and the climax is fervent. — Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Anne Cherian is the author of A Good Indian Wife and The Invitation. Born and raised in Jamshedpur, India, she now lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Twenty-five years later, Vikram has invited his old friends to attend a party celebrating his son Nikhil's graduation from MIT. And while Jay, Frances, and Lali decide to attend the party more out of curiosity than anything else, none of their lives have been as smooth as they believe Vikram's is. Frances, who abandoned the pursuit of her PhD when she started having children, now sells real estate, although she hasn't sold a house in more than a year, Jay's middle-management job isn't quite what he imagined he'd be doing, and their oldest daughter is failing 11th grade. Lali's marriage is struggling as her husband begins to explore his neglected Jewish roots, and her son decides he wants to take a year off from college. And while Vikram is mostly concerned with the appearance of success, his son is not interested in pursuing the path Vikram feels he should. As the four prepare for the party and then meet at Vikram's mansion in Newport Beach, they need to decide how much truth they'll divulge to their friends, not realizing how the truth reveals itself in ways you never expect.
The plot of The Invitation is certainly familiar, but Anne Cherian's adept storytelling hooks you quickly and immerses you in each of the characters' lives and struggles. I felt like Cherian did a good job in trying not to have her characters adhere to cultural stereotypes, although you see how easy it is to slip back into old habits. Ultimately, however, the story veered a bit into melodramatic territory, which I felt undercut the book's effectiveness. I think Cherian is a very good writer, but it seemed to me that she lost a little steam as the book neared its end, although it is still an enjoyable read.
In "The Invitation," Vic sends out an over-the-top, glitzy invitation for 150 people to attend his son's graduation party, celebrating Nik's graduation from MIT. The invitation hits hard among Nik's college friends, all of whom fear not having achieved what they so archly would believe to be their American success stories. Everybody wants a kid like Nik, one to show off to the friends how Indian parenting even in the new climate of the USA can produce the next generation of millionaires.
Vic owns a home in Newport Beach, CA. He has a traditional Indian bride, Priya, from an arranged marriage. Their two sons, especially the older one, receive the gift and the burden of fulfilling their parents' hopes. . .except someone forgot to tell the parents that kids grow into adults, who choose their own paths. The traditional ways of Priya and her learning of American customs are highlights of this book.
The couples have not met in 25 years. The women worry about their weight, their wrinkles, their choice of attire, and the behavior of their children. One child in particular, 17-year old Mandy, is the opposite of Nik. She is getting bad grades, and her parents have decided she will go to India with her mother to learn how to follow academic standards and quit being babied by the American school system. She is a dark and rebellious teen, so her appearance at the party portends all kinds of fears for her mom and dad, Francis and Jay.
Lali and Jonathan handle a different problem. Lali has married a white American. Their son, Aaron, looks like his father. He's at Harvard, so that brings big bragging rights. Except, he doesn't really like Harvard.
The early parts of the book reveal the different backgrounds of the six characters. Much is told in flashback. The contrast between Indian values and American values in terms of food, dress, boy-girl interactions, and respect for parents are woven into the geographical complexities of India and of Southern California.
"The Invitation" brings the reader to a better understanding of what immigrant dreams are made of and how the American dream of individualism sometimes conflicts with that dream. Four stars only for many pages of "telling" rather than "showing," but an enjoyable, quick read with an abrupt, unexpected ending.
My favorite character was Frances but ultimately, Jay was the character I saw myself in the most. This was both revealing and disappointing and served as a session (or 10) with a therapist, where I finally figured out some of the underachieving results of my life and how to overcome it. I particularly appreciated how Jay's character was contrasted with Vic, showing both sides of both coins. I thought the final ending (with the email messages) was abrupt, but that might be because I didn't want the story to end.
Definitely a story I will read again.