Sadly the more I thought about this book last night, the more I realized I could not give it 3 stars. That ending was so bad and I honestly wonder if Patel thought through how adopted kids would feel as well as biological parents. The whole story was sad in a way and I don’t think the real core things got addressed. No spoilers, but the whole let’s ignore this big secret thing is what started this whole book, so it’s not like this was a winning strategy that everyone seemed on board for. And I honestly felt sad/sorry for the character of Neha. We never get to “meet” her, but there’s a lot going on there that I would have loved the author to have delved into. And the overall idea behind the Engineer house is a good one, I don’t think I would be for anyone thinking they could gain access to my place anytime they wanted to either.
“The Candid Life of Meena Dave” follows Meena Dave. Meena is a photojournalist who has been on her own since she was 16. Her adopted parents died in an explosion and since then Meena has traveled the world, not settling down anywhere outside of her best friend’s place in London a few times a year. When Meena is told she has inherited a condo in a building in Boston she thinks there has to be a mistake. She doesn’t know anyone in Boston. But when Meena sees the home, and meets the women and their husbands that live there, Meena wonders if they have a connection to her biological parents. The woman who left Meena the home, Neha Patel, was a lover of words and also notes it seems. And in hidden places throughout the home she leaves Meena clues about her past. One big thing though is Meena cannot sell the home she is left to anyone outside of the building and she’s also limited about what she can do inside and outside the space. Meena at first wonders if she should just rent it out til she can come to a decision, but the women who live there all seem to have their own reasons for her to stay.
Meena is the central figure in the book so we see things through her lens. She finds herself slowly getting drawn into the “aunties” in the building along with her across the hallway neighbor, Sam. And though the burgeoning friendship/relationship with Sam was interesting, it was not enough to save the book.
The aunties were interesting, but two of them I outright disliked, and only really loved the one. And then you find out the history of the women with Neha and I don’t know. I think we are supposed to see this as a great way to live, but the nosiness and the barging in started to get on my nerves. I did like the history of Indians who migrated from India to settle in Boston though. I had no idea about that. Maybe that would have worked better? A historical fiction novel following these same characters, but 40-50 years earlier? To read about how this house came to be with the set up it has now?
I don’t want to get into spoilers, but I am still stunned at the ending of the book and wonder if there is a planned sequel or something. Because the way it ends falls flat and erases what it seemed the author was trying to set up. That Meena needs to fully embrace the family she has made through her life/travels, but also no more secrets.