Book Review: And Laughter Fell from the Sky

And Laughter Fell from the Sky: A NovelAnd Laughter Fell from the Sky: A Novel by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 19, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Still living at home despite a good career and financial independence, beautiful and sophisticated Rasika has always been the dutiful daughter. With her twenty-sixth birthday fast approaching, she agrees to an arranged marriage, all while trying to hide from her family her occasional dalliances with other men.

Abhay is everything an Indian-American son shouldn’t be. Having spent his post college years living in a commune, he now hops from one dead-end job to another, brooding over what he really wants to do with his life.

Old family friends, Rasika and Abhay seem to have nothing in common, yet when the two reconnect by chance, sparks immediately fly. Abhay loves Rasika, but he knows her family would never approve. Rasika reluctantly accepts she has feelings for Abhay, but can she turn her back on the family rules she has always tried so hard to live by? The search to find answers takes Abhay and Rasika out of their native Ohio to Oregon and India, where they find that what they have together might just be something worth fighting for.

In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, Ms. Sreenivasan writes that And Laughter Fell from the Sky was inspired by The House of Mirth. While I didn’t clue into that while I was reading the book, I can see what she meant now that I know. One of the reasons I love The House of Mirth is because it’s about a time when society had very clear rules and expectations. And Laughter Fell from the Sky is set in present day but the parents in the Indian community in America also have clear rules and expectations for their children.

Rasika thinks she wants an arranged marriage but always seems to do something to mess it up before it can happen. Her motivation for wanting an arranged marriage was unclear to me. I think part of her wanted it to please her parents but I think also she thought it would be an easy way to ensure that she had a good-looking husband who makes a lot of money. She is more concerned with appearances than with substance.

It was hard for me to understand why Abhay was attracted to Rasika when she is pretty shallow and materialistic and he is almost the complete opposite. I think it was probably due to the fact that he thought he could save her from herself. I didn’t care for Rasika very much but I did like Abhay so I wanted him to be happy. There are also some fun (and not so fun) secondary characters. Abhay’s mother gets roped into a network marketing company that sounds suspiciously like Discovery Toys. That subplot was humorous.

Sometimes books about different cultures will either have explanations about the culture that sound text-book like and take the reader out of the story or no explanation at all, leaving the reader to wonder why characters are behaving in certain ways. The author of this book did a good job of weaving in explanations of the rules of Indian society into the story in a natural way that made them a part of the narrative.

And Laughter Fell From the Sky is a great modern day version of a Victorian romance novel. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Sreenivasan comes out with next.

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(I received this book courtesy of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.)