Title: Meet Me in Mumbai
Author: Sabina Khan
Review Copy: ARC by publisher
Availability: Available Sept. 6th
Summary: A novel in two acts—told eighteen years apart—gives voice to both mother (Ayesha) and daughter (Mira) after an unplanned teen pregnancy led Ayesha to place Mira up for adoption.
Seventeen-year-old Mira Fuller-Jensen was adopted by her moms at birth. All she knows about her biological mother is that she was a high-school student from India who returned to India after giving birth. Although Mira loves her moms, she’s always felt out of place in her mostly white community.
So when Mira finds an old box with letters addressed to her from her birth mother, she sees a way to finally capture that feeling of belonging. Her mother writes that if Mira can forgive her for having to give her up, she should find a way to travel to India for her eighteenth birthday and meet her. Mira knows she’ll always regret it if she doesn’t go. But is she actually ready for what she will learn?
Review: First off, Meet Me in Mumbai is a beautiful novel that explores the concept of identity and family in such a way that the reader is able to fully empathize with Ayesha’s heart wrenching decision to give Mira up for adoption, and Mira’s search for herself.
Told in 2 parts, the novel gives lots of space and time to each teen’s story. We first spend time with Ayesha and her love story with Suresh. Both are visiting students from India and find a connection that begins as friendship but quickly turns into something more. Something very sweet and wholesome. Really, I loved their relationship initially. Then Suresh is called home just as Ayesha learns she is pregnant. Unfortunately, due to circumstances Ayesha and Suresh lose touch and now Ayesha is faced with a difficult choice on her own. The abortion vs. adoption question is handled with such care and never comes off as preachy. This novel clearly takes a pro-choice stance as Ayesha weighed her options and made the best choice for herself. At that point, Ayesha leaves her aunt and uncle to live with the women who would become Mira’s mothers. Ayesha’s story is heartbreaking as she goes through her pregnancy essentially alone as she doesn’t tell any of her family and only tells her friend Natasha who lives in a different state. Ayesha’s broken heart makes her feel like a failure, but in reality she is an extremely strong and courageous teen because of the difficult choice she makes. I’m glad that we got to spend time with Ayesha leading up to Mira’s birth, and the moments after, because it showed how the decision to give a child up for adoption is not an easy one, and one that had last effects her entire life. Khan truly told Ayesha’s story with a sensitivity that allowed for the reader to really understand how deeply personal the decision to keep or end a pregnancy truly is.
On the flip side of heartbreak is Mira’s story that is filled with so much love. Ayesha’s decision for Mira’s parents is the right one because when we meet her, she is a healthy and happy teen. She is surrounded by friends and family, the opposite of her birth mother at the same age. However, Mira is starting to wonder about her birth mother as she befriends Nikhil who is attending school in the States due to his mother’s temp assignment at NASA. While Mira has always felt somewhat out of place being an Indian American in a predominately white school, her friendship with Nikhil really brings these feelings to the surface and has her beginning to seek out her birth mother. Again, I feel like Khan does a wonderful job of showing the tension in some adoptive families when the child decides to search for their roots. Mira does love her parents, her sister, her life, but she is yearning for a cultural connection that unfortunately her adoptive parents didn’t provide. That doesn’t make them bad parents, just maybe clueless, but it is what drives a lot of the tension between Mira and her moms, so when Mira decides she wants to go to Mumbai to meet Ayesha, her moms are initially against it. They do come to their senses with the help of Nikhil and his mom, and Ayesha flies to Mumbai to meet her birth mother.
I won’t go much further than here because I don’t want to spoil it too much, but the two do meet and Khan chooses to keep the narrative from Mira’s point of view as she gets to know Ayesha. The story takes some interesting and moving twists and turns here and I really loved it. The only downside is that I wish there was more to the story. The novel ends on a loving note, but I still wanted more. I wanted to know in which way Ayesha and Mira would change each other, and wish there was an epilogue to find this out, but that is just a me thing. I loved this beautiful story full of love that explores the notion of what it means to be family.