My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I think it was extremely lucky that this book was picked up by Reese Witherspoon as part of her book club. I love the Hello Sunshine Book Club and read everything that Reese Witherspoon recommends because all of the books she chooses feature a strong female lead in one way or another. All of her books tend to really resonate with me. That being said, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was not my favorite of Reese’s recommendations.
Nikki is the daughter of Indian immigrants, living in London, and looking for a job to help her family make ends meet. She stumbles across an opportunity to teach a creative writing class at the community center, a chance to teach Punjabi women. What she doesn’t realize is that most of the women don’t know how to physically write, a little detail that was left out of the job description. What follows is a hilarious journey of traditional Punjabi women (mostly widows) turning their creative writing class into a storytelling class. The topic? Erotica.
While I enjoyed the writing by Balli Kaur Jaswal, I just felt like the story had a lot going on and could have benefited from some simplification. There was the main plot involving the creative writing class, but beyond that there were subplots about Nikki’s sister looking for a husband, Nikki’s father and his disappointment in her, the long-ago death of a young woman and a touch of murder mystery, etc. While I really enjoyed the story of the class, I just felt like the other plot lines took away from the major elements of the story.
Also, I think if I were to read this again, I would read it in print versus audiobook. There were a LOT of characters with traditional Punjabi names and I found it extremely difficult while listening to be able to keep everybody straight/associate each of the characters with their own unique identity. I feel like it may have been easier to remember all of their names if I had read the book, but I’m also more of a visual learner so that may not be the case for everybody.
Because I had a hard time keeping the characters straight, I wasn’t able to connect with really any of the characters and at times when there was a lot of dialogue, I found myself just wanting the book to speed up and move forward.
Now, there were some major highlights for me. I did enjoy the humor laced throughout the book and found the Punjabi widows very heartwarming overall. I like the idea of very traditional women acting in a way that is very taboo, and having a great time doing it together. It put a smile on my face. I also thought the “erotic stories” interspersed throughout the book were tastefully done, and although erotica is definitely not my traditional genre of choice, I did not find it offensive or vulgar. I will say at times I did find the little mini stories that were peppered throughout the prose somewhat distracting from the overall story. While I understood the value it provided to the reader, making the storytelling sessions more realistic, I think there were maybe a few too many stories in the grand scheme of things which made for choppy reading.
Overall, was this the best book ever? No. Was it okay? Yes. Do I think it’s the best thing Reese Witherspoon has recommended? Nope. But it was interesting and definitely something different.