A New Dawn by Sudha Balagopal

By Ekta R. Garg

November 9, 2016

Genre: Women’s fiction

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A widow must navigate the unchartered waters of dating three years after her husband’s death. The first time around she had an arranged marriage. This time she wants a little more say in a partner. But with no experience in casual relationships, she will have to balance her own emotions as well as memories of her husband if she wants to succeed. Author Sudha Balagopal brings readers her second novel in the fairly even but slightly melodramatic story A New Dawn.

Usha never imagined she’d be a widow at the age of 48. In his ardent, relentless pursuit of the American dream, her husband, Raja, had everything planned…except dying young. Now Usha spends her days trying to figure out just what it means to be single. Soon enough, however, she realizes something: she prefers companionship to the single life. She’s just not sure how to go about finding someone.

Her daughter, Veena, makes a decision. She signs Usha up for a dating website. Usha haws and hems but eventually gives in to the idea of online matchups. This time, though, she’s going to do it in her own time and her own way. She signs herself up on a different site and makes contact with someone right there in Phoenix.

They decide on a time and place to meet, but a series of events leads Usha to Arjay instead. She feels a connection to Arjay. They both work in higher education, Usha as a college counselor at the library and Arjay as a recruiter in a local university. Arjay understands Usha’s pain in losing someone close. The fact that Arjay is good looking doesn’t hurt either.

Just as Usha begins to trust Arjay, however, she discovers something that makes her question him and the entire idea of dating. How will she ever find someone if she can’t trust people? And why won’t Raja stop reprimanding her every move inside her head, just like he used to do to her face when he was alive?

Author Sudha Balagopal shares the inner details of the immigrant experience in A New Dawn. Her depictions of a young Indian wife who comes to the United States with eyes full of stars will probably hit home for many who actually lived through the situation. Usha’s initial confusion and then her disillusionment with certain aspects of her life ring true.

The book loses strength in the middle, however, and some plot elements stay unresolved. Raja’s profession is never fully explained, only that it involves a great deal of stress and the financial sector. Also, the motivation for his intense, almost rabid, devotion to getting ahead in life is never revealed. Readers will hear much about what Raja wants but never why he wants it.

Also, Usha’s reaction to a disagreement between herself and another character seems trite, childish almost. Her sheepish response afterward sounds appropriate, but by then readers may have already spent several pages rolling their eyes at her. Given the reaches of technology today, her reaction may induce a couple of laughs instead of the frustration on Usha’s behalf that Balagopal probably intended.

The story wraps up fairly neatly, making this a light and quick read. I recommend readers Borrow A New Dawn.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, objective review.)