Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s debut novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky, takes readers to two continents as her twenty-something protagonists struggle to find their place in the world. As the children of Indian immigrants, Rasika and Abhay often find themselves at odds with what their traditional parents expect of them. When the two old friends reconnect, the only thing that’s clear is their attraction to each other in spite of all the reasons a relationship would never work.
At twenty-five, Rasika is determined to be a good Indian daughter and have an arranged marriage, even if it means sacrificing her real desires. She came to the United States when she was eight years old, so she has slightly stronger ties to India than Abhay does. Rasika is materialistic and at times shallow, using her hard-earned money to buy herself nice things. She envisions herself a fashionable, well-kept wife with a large, tastefully decorated house and a wealthy, handsome husband. The image she presents to her parents is that of an obedient daughter, even though she has a secret side they know nothing about.
Abhay, meanwhile, has long since decided to march to his own beat: well aware that he’s falling far short of his parents’ expectations, he’s wandering through life trying to find his true calling. He’s an old schoolmate of Rasika’s younger brother, and though he’s incredibly smart and could have easily majored in something that would be lucrative down the road, he majored in general studies and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He spent the year after graduation living on a commune, and all he knows is that he’s interested in Utopian societies.
When Rasika and Abhay cross paths, there’s an attraction, but each can list reasons why it would never work out. Then the two keep running into each other, and while it is apparent to Abhay that Rasika is the one for him, it isn’t as obvious to Rasika. She and her parents are working through their list of respectable suitors for her arranged marriage, and Abhay couldn’t make that cut even if he tried.
And Laughter Fell from the Sky is inspired by Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. It’s been years since I’ve read Mirth, so I can’t draw up any comparisons (or frankly, even Mirth‘s plot!), but the book is enjoyable on its own merits. It alternates between Rasika and Abhay’s point of view, so the pace moves along quickly. At times I felt the characters fell a little flat, but overall I enjoyed how Sreenivasan explored her characters’ philosophies on life and love, as well as their identities as first-generation Indian-Americans. The book would make a good beach read or book club pick.
And Laughter Fell from the Sky was released on June 19, 2012 by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. This book is on tour right now, so check out what other bloggers are saying about it.