Is Zara a manic pixie dream girl? I feel like maybe she is, which breaks my heart every so slightly because I thought that Desai did a terrific job in writing a madcap type character who isn’t a joke as much as she is jovial and loves jokes.
The story here is a pretty straight forward one–Zara is a single lawyer with a string of failed relationships (with a capital F for failed) who has decided to put her energies into matchmaking during the wedding season, the ~May-November-ish period where the entire South Asian diaspora gets married and hosts lavish multi-day affairs one after another. Jay is an ex-military security consultant with No Time for Nonsense until he finds Zara and then has no time to avoid her.
Do we hear “ex military” to describe Jay one too many times? Yes, definitely. Does Zara spend all her energy fixing Jay’s relationship with therapy, his mother, his friends, his business and then get a couple of sentences towards the end of the novel to reassure us that she also has addressed her issues with her mother/parents? Yes, as well.
But I think I empathize so hard with Zara as a character, and with her utter confidence in who she is, that I can paper over all of that. The manic pixie dream girl exists solely to make the lives of the sad sack man better, but in this case Zara genuinely did just make Jay better by existing and doing her thing. Even when she’s actively doing something to help him out that he doesn’t want–a few days where she stays at his apartment to give him support even though he doesn’t want it–she’s noted as bringing her work with her and completing everything she needs to do. It genuinely feels like she’s herself, and that’s enough to get Jay to the VA to have his PTSD looked at. And for that we give books 10/10 stars!