First, the plot: Mili is an Indian from a small village in Rajasthan that practices child marriage. At four, she was married to twelve-year-old Virat and has waited twenty years for him to claim his bride. In the meantime, she groomed herself to be the perfect wife. Educated, pretty, poised, somewhat traveled, religious, and humble. She's even taken care of the grandfather of the runaway groom (his mother took him and his brother and fled the grandfather), as horrible as he was (the grandfather, not the groom) and revered him until his death. She sends Virat a letter, and until that letter, he had no idea he was still married. His mother had the marriage annulled a year after the wedding, but of course grandfather intervened. Virat is now happily married to the love of his life and expecting their first child. After an accident, he's unable to hunt Mili, who's gone off to America for a year-long course in higher education, and sends his younger half-brother, the Bad Boy of Bollywood directors, Samir. The brothers think this village girl has ulterior motives, but one clumsy, infatuated scenario after another, Samir finds not only the script-writing jump he so desperately needs, but sincere feelings for this neurotic, accident-prone girl. All he has to do is get her to sign the annulment papers and be on his way, but he takes advantage of his new muse and finds himself going out of his way to help her.
The few "negative" takeaways (I quote the word because there's a meaningful balance to counteract it): Mili is a naive girl, but then again she's from a village and bravely pushes herself to become more modern and educated in a social structure where finishing high school isn't all that important for girls. Good for her! Mili also cries...a lot...as in twenty-five percent of the book and it gets annoying, but once her tears dry, the reader, and a certain Bollywood-ish hero, knows there's possibly no fixing the situation. Mili is also very accident-prone, which isn't a bad thing. It makes her imperfect and relatable, however she seems to fall into the hero's arms quite a lot. Ridhi, Mili's flatmate in America, can be annoying in her immaturity but adds comic relief. Finally, if you're not into the f-bomb, it's best to skim over some parts in Samir's POV.
The great stuff: Dev's prose is excellent and lyrical. She has fleshed out characters who are all different in wonderful ways. Mili and Samir couldn't be further apart. I loved how Samir slipped into a Shah Rukh Khan type character during the roti scene. I have no idea if Dev intended that, or perhaps I was just pleasantly reminded of the biggest of Bollywood heroes, but it put a smile on my face. I smiled a lot, in fact. The romance is sweet and there's an explosive scene, but the story revolves around fighting these feelings when Mili believes she's still married to another man without making her sound preachy or elevated in her thinking.
Do I recommend this book? Yes. Of course. Not because it's different or a part of my culture, but because it's a good read.
Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.
Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.