WTF? What’s a Canadian fantasy author doing writing a review for a chick-lit novel? Actually, forget that I write about zombies and magic and stuff that goes bump in the night for one second … I’m a guy! Chick-lit is like … I don’t know, something that men are supposed to run away from while pulling their hair out in clumps. Well, good news – I’m bald so there’s not a lot of hair to pull out and your heart has to be a cold dead thing if you’re a guy and you didn’t like Notting Hill.
You see, I like to read and review chick-lit due to my genetic handicap when it comes to writing romance in my books. I’ve made it well known that I suck at writing romance so, selfishly, I read the occasional chick-lit novel to help me get my head around what makes for effective romance. (Seriously … here’s a review I did for fellow Canadian author Catherine McKenzie’s delightful SPIN and here’s another one for her second book ARRANGED. If you haven’t bought these books, go get them … today!)
I’m Twitter buds with the author of YEAR OF THE CHICK. Romi Moondi provides me with a daily chuckle and a happy reminder that I should be thanking God that I don’t live in Toronto because Romi tweets from the Go-Train each morning on her way to work. Its a play-by-play of freaky-deeky people that she encounters in Canada’s largest city and I laugh my ass off every time. It’s pure gold.
YEAR OF THE CHICK is Bridget Jones’s diary for a multi-cultural world. In an era where Bollywood has replaced Hollywood in terms of not only global influence, but popularity and revenue generation, Romi Moondi provides readers with a quirky, fast-paced novel that gives white people like me a glimpse into what it’s like be an Indo-Canadian child of immigrants and all the family obligations/expectations that come with it. This book delivers for a number of reasons, notwithstanding Romi’s quirky writing style. Peppered with snarky observations and seasoned with neurotic sounding self deprecating humor, YEAR OF THE CHICK tells the story of a fictitious Romi (or is it fictitious?) as she searches for the perfect man. Actually she’s searching for ANY man, but I digress. Her prime motivation? She doesn’t want to wind up in an arranged marriage and really, I can’t blame her one bit. You know, because her parents have established that both Romi and her sister will be in arranged marriages pretty damned quick … not cool! Naturally, Romi has to move quickly to thwart the whole arranged marriage thing – somewhere out there is a guy for her and sby God, she’s gonna find him! (There’s this other issue of a twelve month deadline established by her parents during which Romi needs to lose about twenty pounds before they find her a suitable East Indian man of good standing. Not only are they going to find her a guy, they won’t do it because she’s too fat! Ugh! The girl can’t win!)
What happens next is an epic (okay, not really epic … how about frantic) search for a mate because the whole arranged marriage thing is so NOT going to happen if Romi has anything to say about it. There’s a year’s worth of looking … from websites to nightclubs to blind dates … Romi chronicles each misadventure and what makes this book so bloody brilliant is the author’s writing style: it’s first person narrative, but there are emails, text messages, Facebooking … you name it, it’s all there. Because each chapter encapsulates the way in which the generation below me actually communicates in our wired world, it made this book all the more real for me. But that ain’t all, folks, not by a long shot.
We’ve got sister-sister angst proving that family drama is not the exclusive domain of white folks. We’ve got an undercurrent of tension between Romi and her parents – there’s love of course, but you have to feel for Romi because she’s living a double life and trying desperately to maintain the anchor that is her family when she has adopted western ways. I can’t honestly imagine what that must be like because my Canadian family goes back about four generations. I think this is what makes this book so darned honsest, too, because we don’t see enough of this in mainstream books and entertainment (with the exception of Russell Peters who while still a funny guy has milked the whole “somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad” routine dry, frankly.) and we should. Toronto is the nerve center for new Canadians, trust me. It’s a city that is filled with immigrants and Romi captures the flavor of Toronto better than a lot of established authors because she lives it every single day. This made me wonder just how much of the book was fictitious and just how much was a very personal glimpse into the author’s life. When a reader gets that deep sense of connection with a book, you know it’s a winner.
Romi has done a hell of a thing with YEAR OF THE CHICK. (And it’s the first in a TRILOGY! Screw Star Wars!) She’s chronicled a year long search for the perfect man with no shortage of hilarity, and she does it by giving readers a taste of that double life that the rest of us can’t even imagine. The writing is tight. The pacing is brilliant. The characters are rich and diverse. There’s so much to like in this book that I can’t even begin to list everything in one blog post. By the way, YEAR OF THE CHICK needs to be a movie. Seriously. And it has to take place in Toronto (okay and in New York a little later) because Toronto is central to what makes the book work and the author gives readers a taste of the city on damned near every page.
It’s a fun book, yes, but I think it’s an important book (WTF? How can chick-lit be important? It’s fluff!) because the search for love is a universal theme that isn’t the exclusive domain of the dominant culture. It’s an honest glimpse into Indo-Canadian life and the message is still the same regardless of your ethnicity: we all just want to fall in love.
(YEAR OF THE CHICK is available at your usual online book-buying venues. My copy was graciously provided by the author.)