Tuesday, August 18, 2009

REVIEW: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama. Published 2009 by Amy Einhorn Books/Penguin. Fiction.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People is a delightful, charming little beach book about the Alis, a family of Indian Muslims whose paterfamilias, Mr. Ali, starts an arranged-marriage business to occupy himself in his retirement- and keep himself out of his wife's hair. Business picks up right away, and he hires a young Hindu girl named Aruna to be his assistant, a smart and self-effacing girl with marriage dreams of her own.

From there the story is off and running as a motley cast of hopefuls comes through his door, including a valve salesman who needs to learn to be his own best advocate, a divorced florist who wants a man on her own terms, and a doctor whose family isn't going to be satisfied with just anybody for their handsome prince. Mr. Ali does his best to find mates for his customers, but sometimes love happens when you least expect it.

First-time novelist Farahad Zamar writes with affection and humor about his native India and its peoples, faiths and cultures- and about its social conditions and politics. Mr. Ali's son, Rehman, is an activist whose travails illustrate larger issues in Indian society; likewise, Aruna's family situation- a disabled father and no money to get married- illustrates the fragility of women's lives. Zamar populates his story with characters from all levels of society- everyone from the rich doctor Ramanujam to the poorest of the poor- without detracting from the book's overall light, hopeful tone.

I really enjoyed The Marriage Bureau for Rich People. Peppered with lots of cultural details, readers of light fiction will enjoy the armchair travel and the sweet stories about finding love and finding one's way in the world. The book is also a easy primer on Muslim and Hindu marriage practices, as well as a relatively quick read and the perfect way to get away without going away on a summer's day. Zama creates lovable, imperfect characters you'll care about and enjoy getting to know.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.