I have been sooooo looking forward to the release of that book, of which I had the pleasure and privilege of reading excerpts when it was still in the revision stage. The novel was not totally finished, but it already had the qualities that now shine through the printed story. A happy, boisterous feeling that leaves you thoroughly satisfied, your heart smiling and your feet ready to tap-tap-tap. Plus, it took place for the most part in the Nilgiri hills, where we went on our very first trip in India – our little one was 9 months old – and so, I’m also feeling a little nostalgic, now.
Dini must leave Maryland, USA, and her BFF Maddie to follow her parents to a small town in the hills of South India called Swapnagiri (which means Dream Mountain) where her mother will spend two years working at a clinic. Dini and Maddie are Bollywood movies fans, and they adore the famous actress Dolly Singh. And, would you believe it, Dolly Singh may well be hiding somewhere in these hills, nursing a broken heart. Will the fan and the actress’ paths cross each other ? Of course they will – in true Bollywood fashion. Which doesn’t mean Dini will not have to deal with some plot twists here and there…
What did I LOVE about The Gran Plan to Fix Everything ?
First, the obvious : it is lovingly written and crafted, it is funny in a tongue-in-cheek way (Uma mentioned somewhere being inspired by P.G. Woodhouse), it is a breath of fresh mountain air carrying the fragrance of blue flowers, and some goat smells, too.
The fusion quality : Dini’s parents are Indian, but she’s growing up in the US. Dini’s BFF is American, and she is as much a fan of Bollywood movies as Dini is. Emails, phone calls, and video computer calls allow both girls to remain in touch. Dini soon meets another girl named Priya whose parents are in Washington DC, but will soon be going to Chile, and then Haiti. This is the kind of world I can totally relate to, a world where people from different walks of life, different countries and cultures, all learn from each other. I just can’t wait for my daughter, who will turn 11 in August, to read the book, but she had to wait, ’cause I had to read it first. Actually, I think I may even read it aloud, see if our 7-year-old can enjoy it, too. Oh, one last thing : we also get to “taste” curry puffs with a touch of chocolate, and dark chocolate scented with rose petals !
Uma, being of Indian origin, puts her own stamp on the English language, and I’m not talking syntax or grammar, here, but music, and a unique way of stringing words together. You can see this is someone who loves the picture book medium and studied it extensively. Her language literally sings and dances and follows some of the cadences of the Hindi and Tamil languages that she speaks, as well as English. Dini look-looks, and listen-listens, for instance, and a few Hindi words and sentences are woven into the story without any of the heavy-handedness that you sometimes get when authors use foreign words and then proceed to translate them, almost in the same breath.
As a writer, I loved all the references to plots and plotting, and how Dini, a true movie-buff, sees life through the eyes of a budding writer. Everything translates in terms of scenes, the place of the actors/characters in them, plots and their inevitable twists… Uma and Dini have a lot in common, for sure.
I also loved the way Uma describes parent/child, and adult/child relationships. It is refreshing – and a little cringe-inducing, also. Refreshing because you, the adult (OK, me, the adult) are suddenly reminded of the way you were at that age, and how some of your thought-process went just like Dini’s. The cringe comes from the sad realization that you need someone as talented as Uma to channel the authentic voice and feelings of that child who got somewhat lost when you took on the role of parent.
Which is probably why I so love reading, and writing for children, and I think all adults should continue to read some kids literature, at least from time to time.
I’ll end up this long review by saying that I will now wait for the movie version of this book. Come on, filmi people out there ! Whether you’re in the US or in India, this book has all the necessary ingredients to make a perfect family movie – complete with songs, and dance numbers, if you please !