Echoes from Punjab was a deeply moving and enchanting story to read! The following is my heartfelt book review:
As a reader and author of non-fiction works, I am delightfully surprised by this beautiful novel, which was so well written that it could be non-fiction!
From the velvety soft book cover, to the pacing, the story moves at such an elegant pace, it can keep a reader meaningfully engaged from beginning to end.
As I read this endearing story, I learned some Indian words–even some new English words! I laughed, cried, and experienced many emotions–all the while I read about Jasmine’s journey.
Jasmine, the central figure and main character, has led a similar life to mine, except that I only moved to a different state in the USA, not to a completely different country (so obviously I did not have the racial or language challenges she had).
I so enjoyed the way the author interlaced descriptions of places in India, Indian history, and lots of Punjabi (the 10th most widely spoken language in the world) into her novel. For example, in Chapter 2 – The Land of Milk and Honey, Daljit teaches us, “Tussi Punjabi ho” [you are Punjabi] as very early on in the story Jasmine meets a stranger in the U.S.A. who is also from Punjab. Somehow I knew I would love this book just by seeing the title of this chapter–as this is indeed what America is–The Land of Milk and Honey!
Speaking of favorites, Chapter 6 – The Twins knocked my socks off! My daughter is expecting twins and lives far from me, plus, I’d only recently learned of this glorious news when I began reading Echoes from Punjab! Obviously, synchronicity was working spectacularly for me! I read this chapter and the many to follow about Jasmine’s twins with eager excitement! I could really visualize so much of this story… Oh!! I love it so much!
I also truly grasped the richness of the vivid imagery the author detailed, both in the Indian scenes and in the northeastern U.S.A. Since, I lived a good many years of my life in the northeast, and traveled to many of the destinations that Daljit writes about, I had those scenes well set in my imagination. When she took me to India, a place I’ve only seen in many movies, well, I could paint them easily from her words.
What is hard to imagine is just how far away Punjab is from America. I’ve talked with several coworkers from India over the last few years who have tried to explain the travel time and how tiring it can be, so I have an inkling–but mostly it’s mind boggling to think about the actual distance, time, and money involved in the travel. Chapter 9 with its aptly fitting title, The Journey, does its best to convey about the burdensome travel though. This chapter gives us shocking twists and turns in the drama of what is becoming Jasmine’s life–I won’t tell you what happens as I don’t want to spoil it for you–but I can say, that again, I’ve shared some of these life experiences and oh, how good it is to have them behind me!
On one particular page during The Journey, I can tell you that I absolutely agree that “I love my country as I love my mother but that does not mean I cannot see its shortcomings.” I have so much respect for people who leave their home to go live in another country, as until I read Echoes from Punjab, I could barely imagine how one could be so far from loved ones, deal with a different language, culture, time zones, currency, racism, and so on! I have a hard enough time dealing with the fact that I have dear loved ones several states away from me within our own country, much less having to deal with all of those other pressures! I also believe one must really be dedicated to make such a sacrifice.
The Distressed Visit, Chapter 12 was intensely emotional for me. I was “with” Jasmine in every gut-wrenching moment! Having lost several friends in my life already, I know the pain of what she must have felt, and I grieved with her. When you have to say goodbye to friends, especially so far away, and when you have not seen them face to face in a long time, it can be especially difficult. Our family and friends are so important to us all! I think I now realize why so many people do not move away from their home places!
Chapter 20 – The Weddings, was as bright, light, and uplifting as The Distressed Visit was sad! Through Echoes from Punjab you get all of the ups, downs, good, not-so-good, colors, sounds, and intensity of life that one could want. I would smile and laugh, then reminisce of times gone by. I definitely could correlate several times of my life, alongside Jasmine’s up and down experiences. Thus, in the end, through sadness, grief, joy, and bewilderment, I shared her humanity. And I will be forever grateful to a new yet, dear friend who was thoughtful enough to gift me with this timeless book. (Thank you Rekha!)