A beautiful twenty-something Indian chartered accountant teaches yoga to prisoners at a New York state penitentiary.
I knew I had to review Bapsy Jain’s Lucky Everyday when I heard the plot outline. The thing that’s always stuck in my craw about chick-lit is the consumerism displayed by the protagonists; the Shopaholic is but the most transparently-named member of her tribe. The idea of yoga (can we say anti-materialism here?) entwined with chick-lit was way too twisted intriguing to pass up.
Lucky Boyce has just emerged from a nasty divorce where her husband killed her successful jewelery export business and her self-esteem. She subsequently moves from Mumbai to New York, the scene of happier days when she was a successful single woman working for a top financial services firm in Manhattan. An old friend persuades Lucky to take her mind off her troubles by teaching yoga to help rehabilitate prisoners. In a Bollywood moment, Lucky wins over the skeptical convicts by performing a single-armed handstand.
But New York isn’t kind to Lucky this time round. A random mugging results in a serious wrist injury. The new firm she’s joined seems to encourage dodgy accounting practices. The nice guy she’d dumped for her former husband is now a married father of two. And when Lucky finds herself at the center of a criminal conspiracy, possibly facing a prison term, her name looks like a bad joke. But our protagonist sorts out most of her problems with her intelligence, some serious doodling skills, and of course, yoga. I have never practised yoga, and so am not quite sure what to make of a sentence like “Closing her eyes, she focused on a soft blue glow that appeared from the ajna chakra.” Suffice to say that yoga calms and de-stresses Lucky so she can focus on her true priorities. Lucky is aided in her quest for inner peace by the voice of her spiritual guru Shanti (duh, peace in Sanskrit).
The writing is occasionally OTT (as witnessed by the latter instance), but Lucky Everyday’s main weakness is its anemic characterizations. Lucky is nicely drawn, but the secondary characters are an indistinguishable lot–there is no real attempt to explore the impulses or ideologies that shape people’s behaviors. Still, the plot moves along briskly, and readers will definitely cheer Lucky in her fight against the patriarchy. And how bracing to find a protagonist who isn’t a South Asian subaltern finding western feminism (and hence her voice) in North America. Jain gives us a young Indian woman whose independence and self-confidence were forged in India, who is traveling West to find peace. Lucky Boyce is in fact an anti-Elizabeth Gilbert, loving, praying and eating her way to enlightenment in NYC…
Jain also provides much interesting incidental detail in the book, not the least of which is that Lucky is Zoroastrian, and her ex-husband a Hindu. As is often the case, the pressures of a mixed marriage weigh more heavily on the woman, and having a jerk for a husband does not help. While the break-up of Lucky’s marriage wasn’t detailed in any meaningful depth, I was sort of glad that Jain pushed her protagonist beyond standard gender politics. Lucky’s real struggle is to locate herself as a human being in the spiritual world.
If this is chick-lit, bring it on. Please.
(This review appears in Ego Magazine.)
Update: via email from the author, news that there’s a sequel in the works. And there just might be a film too!