Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee

By Ekta R. Garg

November 17, 2010

Rated: Bookmark it!

A girl is being pressured by an overbearing aunt to get married, so what does she do?  She invents a fiancé, of course!  And then she spends the following months of her life trying to actually find a man to play—or possibly become—her mystery guy.  Along the way she bumps into someone who seems all wrong but is actually all right for her.

This is the basic premise of Anjali Banerjee’s Imaginary Men.  Owing to her cultural background, though, Banerjee makes this entire storyline stickier when she grounds all of her characters in their Indian roots.  When that happens so much more is at stake because often Indian relatives don’t hesitate to get in one another’s business, particularly where marriage is concerned.  Banerjee captures that entire aspect of the Indian culture incredibly well in this, her first novel.

The book starts off a little rough; it’s almost as though Banerjee needs a little time to settle into her groove.  She opens Imaginary Men with Lina Ray, a successful matchmaker from San Francisco, who is attending her sister’s wedding in Kolkata, India.  The wedding is especially important for Lina because she was the one who set up her sister and brother-in-law.  She’s trying to enjoy herself at the wedding when Auntie Kiki enters; Auntie Kiki, Lina’s domineering but nevertheless loving great-aunt.

Auntie Kiki is turning the screws on Lina to get married, even going so far as to introduce Lina to potential suitors right there at the wedding ceremony.  After meeting someone she describes as “Pee Wee Herman on steroids,” Lina panics and says she’s already engaged.  Family members shower her with congratulations and switch their pressure tactics from “When are you getting married?” to “When do we get to meet him?”  The drama becomes intense when Auntie Kiki announces she’ll be visiting Lina in the States soon, and Lina realizes her little lie better become truth quick or else she’ll be living with the shame of it as well as that of being close to spinster-hood by her relatives’ standards.

Once she gets past the wedding and back in her native San Francisco, Lina’s voice comes through more smoothly.  Banerjee settles nicely into her narrative and gives readers some nice moments and enjoyable prose.  The story becomes predictable early on, but Banerjee entertains readers all the way to the happy ending.  While much of the conflict comes from the cultural clashes I think anyone from any background can appreciate Lina’s predicament, part of which comes from just wanting to find someone who will love her the way she is.

For a nice light read, I would highly recommend Imaginary Men and look forward to reading more of Banerjee’s work.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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