SHADOWED PROMISE From riots in Bombay to the riches of Beverly hills… by Sunanda Chatterjee

51i6qFeKgTL._AC_US160_.jpgShadowed Promise by Sunanda Chatterjee is the second book by the author that I have read.The book is about the life of a girl, Moyna Sengupta, considered a bad omen by her family, a noshter goda or the root of destruction. She is a strong, determined woman, out to carve a niche for herself.

The Blurb:

Moyna’s cousin panted at the doorway, heavy with child. “Who did this to you?” her father shouted. And Moyna knew that somehow she would be blamed for this unspeakable shame on the family. Her aunt blamed her for all the tragedies, from the death of Moyna’s own parents to the riots in Bombay. But, as her cousin lay dying of stab wounds, Moyna promised to protect the baby.
In a panic, eighteen-year-old Moyna made a hasty decision that would return to haunt her years later.
Bullied as a child, Sameer wants to make the world a safer place.  He has spurned a cushy career in his father’s law firm for public service. Sameer is drawn to the mysterious Moyna when they meet in Los Angeles. The attraction seems mutual, but Moyna remains cautious and secretive about her past, insulating herself from love to protect others from her unlucky curse.
At the cusp of political victory, Sameer faces increasing gun violence and death threats leading to an FBI investigation. But his greatest challenge comes when a shadow from Moyna’s past threatens to destroy their future.
What hope do they have with the media hungering for a scandal?
A story of friendship, redemption, and forgiveness, “Shadowed Promise” is a journey from blind faith to triumphant love.

The story:

Seven year old Moyna Sengupta’s uncle brings her to Bombay after she loses her parents in an accident. Her aunt considers her to be a bad omen, but her ten year old cousin, Tania tells her there is no such thing as bad omen. Her aunt blames her for everything that happens in and around them, even accidents. Ever since her arrival in Bombay, the girls are introduced to outsiders as sisters, as they looked very much alike.

Now eleven years later, December 1992, Moyna, 18 is studying for her SAT exams and Tania is studying in Delhi. Tania is happy with the life her aunt led and Moyna wants a real career. Moyna wants to get to a quiet, clean and open place where she could pursue her studies in peace, judged on her own merit and not compared with her fairer, prettier cousin. She wants to be independent and have a family of her own.

The riots after the Babri Masjid issue are gaining momentum and the family is waiting for Tania who is coming from Delhi, a visibly pregnant Tania arrives, much to the shock of the family. Moyna wants to know more about Tania’s condition, but Tania tells her to pursue her dreams and make her proud and that they would talk about it later. She appears for her SAT exams, excels in them and gets accepted to USC with full scholarship and moves to the U.S. But at a price. On the day of the exam, she loses her friend, Karan Singh and her cousin to the mob and takes the responsibility of Avinash, Tania’s son, by putting her name along with Karan’s on his birth certificate. Her aunt tells her to leave India and not think about Avi, not talk about him, and take her shadow away from Avi, so that Avi could be protected as she had promised Tania. Tania’s suitcase, the one she had put under the bed when Tania had come home from Delhi, which was never opened, guides her.

In August 1993, she meets Lupe and Aaron on the first day at the University and they become best friends. Sameer Singhania, who is half Indian and the son of a rich lawyer also is in their batch. His father wants him to become a lawyer but Sameer dreams of joining public office to make a difference in the lives of all Californians. Sameer is instantly attracted to her and she reminds him of a girl his best friend Jeff was smitten by while on vacation in India. She is also attracted to him but wants to protect him from the curse. She graduates earlier and joins law school, and keeps her uncle and aunt updated through letters, which always go unanswered. She gets married to Sameer, after a lot of persuasion from him and joins his father’s law firm. But her secret still lies buried deep inside her.

What happens next? Does Avi see his birth certificate? Does her aunt forgive her? Does Sameer come to know of her past? Can she keep the promise she made to Tania? Most important, does she come out of the curse? Read on……

My take:

A beautifully written story, with great characters written in a simple language. The characters are well developed and realistic. There are not many characters in the story and the author has justified the presence of each of them. The descriptions are detailed, be it of the characters or of the scenes, I could actually visualize the scenes. The conversations between the characters were so realistic, I felt that they were conversing right in front of me and I was actually not reading the dialogues. The author has taken pains to explain meanings of Indian terms and even relatives’ for the non-Indian reader, or even for the non-Bengali reader.

The story is fast paced, with not a dull moment in between, and moves from one chapter to another flawlessly, in a chronological manner, with the month and the year mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

The author has put in a lot of emotions in the book. She made me laugh, cry and smile. One twist towards the end, changed everything for me.

Highly recommended, with a small word of caution: The story will stay with you long after you finish the book.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book from the author in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.

Thank you so much for the book, Sunanda.

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