Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Book Review: Grown-Up Pose

By Jami Deise

What does it take to become a grown-up? Are the trappings of adult life—marriage, career, baby, home ownership—enough, or does true adulthood mean more? In Toronto writer Sonya Lalli’s latest novel, Grown-Up Pose, the author explores what it means to be an adult through the eyes of her thirty-something heroine, a married mother of one who walks away from her family to try to find what really makes her happy.

Protagonist Anu Desai had only ever dated one man—her husband Neil—and even waited till their wedding to sleep with him. That’s what good Indian girls did, and even though Anu is Canadian, her parents, friends, and husband all have Indian heritage. Growing up, Anu felt pressured to follow their rules, and usually complied – for instance, becoming a nurse when she really wanted to be a yoga teacher. But now Anu feels trapped by her husband, five-year-old daughter, and the expectations that an Indian wife and mother should take care of everything domestic all on her own. When the novel opens, she is already separated from Neil, and because he has partial custody of their daughter and a mother who dotes on her, Anu has plenty of time to date (an American man her parents were never approve of) and explore who she really is.

Even though Anu is a thirty-something Indian-Canadian woman, she seemed more like a middle-aged American man to me. Her belief that her feelings of boredom and discontent were more important than her commitments is typical of the midlife crises that lead men to affairs, divorce, convertibles and other life-shattering decisions. Similarly, rather than taking responsibility for the fact that her career, marriage, and child were all the results of decisions she had made, Anu blames her parents and Indian society for her predicament.

What keeps Anu from being a complete narcissist is her guilt and confusion, along with her friends’ disbelief and anger. Life without the responsibilities of husband and child isn’t a music video, and again and again she’s forced to confront what she’s given up to pursue the life she thought she wanted.

Although episodic at times, Grown-Up Pose is a thoughtful look at the emotional milestones toward adulthood. While career, marriage, children, and home ownership represent the outward signs of maturity, it’s the unseen markers such as gratitude, responsibility, self-sacrifice and commitment that are the true harbingers of being a grown-up.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Sonya Lalli:

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