I was given an advanced reader copy of The Matchmaker’s List by NetGalley and I couldn’t put it down. I also struggled a bit with how to review it, as I hate spoilers, and this one has a doozy of a plot device midway through might make your eye twitch a bit with discomfort. Ultimately, though, I really enjoyed the story. Read on for my review, which contains affiliate links (because this girl needs her coffee).The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli
Published by Penguin on February 5, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Multicultural & Interracial, Women, Family Life, General
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One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her...
As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams.
The Matchmaker’s List is described as a romantic comedy, but I think it is so much more than that – I’d put it firmly into women’s fiction, as this is not all light and fluffy, and nearly all of the characters are flawed. I sat down with a hot cup of coffee to read this book, and was basically glued to my comfy chair for the next 5 hours, coffee long gone cold. Even with a chunk of the book that niggled at me and made me quite uncomfortable, I still loved it.
Sonya Lalli touches on so many themes – the fear of disappointing our parents (or grandparents, in this case), and the complexities of cultural expectations. The conversations between Raina and her best friend regarding arranged marriages in particular were thought provoking.
If you’ve ever had a mother long for you to meet the right person and settle down, you will find plenty to relate to in this book. (I married at 34. I can completely related to the “when are you going to meet a nice boy and settle down” and “you’re so picky”. Bah.) If you’ve ever endured the blind date that left you wondering why your friend thought so little of you that they thought this person would be good for you, you’ll relate to Raina’s frustration.
We follow along with Raina as she swims along in a job she doesn’t love, living in an apartment that doesn’t really feel like home, longing for the guy that didn’t love her enough, while she humors her Nani by going on blind dates that are simply disastrous. Then the love of her life (the one who got away, or at least, the one she gave up on) returns to Toronto and complicates things further.
Until this point, I’m glued – and then comes the a plot device that has me torn.
When things come to a head (especially once she discovers where Nani is getting her new list of bachelors) and Raina finally shares her frustration with her grandmother, Nani reads more into her behavior and basically offers her a way out of the blind-date merry go round she’s been on. (I really don’t want to give any spoilers here.) While she never agrees with Nani’s assumption, she doesn’t deny it, either, and that lapse creates a situation that grows out of control. (“Train wreck” is an apt description.) It’s the perfect example of how one lie (or sin of omission) can grow to monstrous proportions and hurt so many people.
While I understand in the end why Raina tries to wait to set the record straight (once it’s gone too far), I’m frustrated that (a) she used this excuse at all, as it negates the struggles that others are actually going through and (b) her friends forgive her for it, because it’s so damn selfish. (Also, I’m a little frustrated that I connected with her character so much in the beginning, because now it’s very much like a car accident – you don’t want to look but you can’t not.)
Ultimately, however, it’s a plot device that reflects the discrimination in their culture and community, and how the families deal with it. Was it the best way to do it, and can I forgive her for it? (Probably not, but yes, uneasily.)
I’m not giving away the plot twist that turns into a train wreck, but I’m thinking The Matchmaker’s List will create some interesting and opinionated discussion at your next book club meeting.
Despite the twist, I really did enjoy the book and I was indeed glued until I hit the very last page. This was definitely a book that twisted me up emotionally, and I absolutely adored Nani – she was a delight, even as she too was flawed. The Matchmaker’s List gets a solid four stars from me.
About the Author:
Sonya Lalli is a Canadian writer of Indian heritage. She studied law in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and at Columbia University in New York City. She completed an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at City University London in 2015, and currently works as a journalist at a legal magazine in London. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and loves travel, yoga, piano, reading and cocktail bartending.
Have you read The Matchmaker’s List?
Let me know in the comments below (because goodness knows, I want to discuss this with someone!!!
I was provided with an advance copy of this book for review purposes; all thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own. This review contains affiliate links.