I am loving the resurgence of the rom-com. I adore these types of novels and am thrilled that they're making a comeback in such an amazing way. Gone are the stereotypical white girls trying to make it in the big city, wearing the best fashion (though I loved those books too). Now we're getting diverse characters and authors and stories that are so much more realistic and so, so necessary. The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli has some issues but, in the end, I'm so happy it's published and available for women everywhere to read.
Here's the synopsis:
One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it.One of my favourite things about this novel was that it's set in Canada and doesn't hide it. Canadian authors too often set their novels in the US or purposefully ambiguous locations - not usually because they want to but because it's harder to market a Canadian set book to American readers (insert major eye roll here). I think it's a bunch of baloney so when I find a book that's proudly Canadian, I cheer.
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her...
As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams.
The biggest thing I didn't like about this book was so big it really affected the way I viewed the story as a whole. I could have liked the novel SO much more had this plot point not occurred. This is going to be a bit of a spoiler but I think it needs to be discussed because I'm not OK with this part of the story and think others should be aware of it. Raina was so fed up with being pushed onto male suitors that she pretends to be gay. AND a character had come out to her in confidence and she ends up outing them later on. Not to mention seriously pissing them off and offending them. I just cannot understand why Lalli thought it would be a good idea to have Raina pretend to be gay for protection from an arranged marriage. Just...no.
There were other things I really liked about this story. I loved that there was an actual list of suitors that was added to and amended as the novel went on. Raina and her Nani's relationship is complicated, like all family relationships are, but the love between them runs so deep. Respect of the other is a bit lacking but they truly do love each other. Raina's friendship with Shaylee is perfection and Shay is the kind of girlfriend every woman should hope to have (and be). I appreciated that Raina is figuring herself out and is a big work in progress, even by the end of the novel. I liked that each date she has to go on is a separate chapter and that there are other chapters from past birthdays interspersed throughout as well.
Overall, Sonya Lalli's novel is a lot of fun. Is it the best rom-com I've ever read? No, but I am absolutely OK with that (less OK with that big issues I mentioned). I enjoyed the time I spent reading The Matchmaker's List and think it's an incredibly important addition to the contemporary fiction space. I look forward to what Lalli writes next!
*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*