This is a collection of all the reviews The Worst Daughter Ever is receiving. This collection will be updated regularly. The Worst Daughter Ever is published by Rupa Publications and is available at bookstores worldwide via Amazon, Flipkart and local bookstores.
…And it is good!
There are a few writers who enrich your life with their words, stories and vivid imagination. Then there are writers whose books you actively wish you could have written. And the last, a very rare breed of writers, whom you want to befriend just because they write stories you wish you’d written that enrich your life.
Shilpa Suraj is that rare breed of writer.
In her second M&B romance Rescued by Love (which I read first on a personal request from Shilpa) we get to meet that hero we all love to fall in love with — Lt. Col. Arjun Malhotra. Tough, stoic, handsome and with a heart as gooey as melted chocolate. He rescues the heroine Naina from a kidnapping in the harsh terrain of Ladakh (I cannot help but think of Kingdom Come and Krivi Iyer) and she falls for his particular kind of bravery instantly.
He is exactly that perfect.
Naina has been the cossetted, pampered and yet unloved daughter of – a man who will break rather than bend as he sentences a notorious terrorist to death and has his daughter kidnapped in retribution. He is upset with her for getting into this terrible situation instead of being sick with worry over her safety and life. Her mother is no better, kowtowing to the father’s every whim instead of speaking her own mind and insisting that the daughter do the same: Marry an ‘appropriate’ guy that her father has picked out so she can live a comfortable life.
In her first act of rebellion, Naina goes to Ladakh and promptly gets taken hostage and then rescued by yummy Arjun and his awesome colleagues. And over the course of the trek that brings her back home, she finds her heart stolen by the soldier who puts duty and honor above everything else. The very thing that attracts her to him is the very thing that will keep them apart.
It’s a delicious dilemma that is further aided by Naina’s refusal to bend down to her father’s dictates as she is finally dumped back home with a broken heart and stubborn hope of changing her own future.
If I reveal any more, I risk giving out spoilers and I would like to avoid that. Suffice it to say that when Naina grows a spine and meets Arjun again in vastly different circumstances (of course, they do!) the drama and tension are even higher than they were amid all the bullets in Ladakh.
Falling in love is, after all, more dangerous than being rescued from militant terrorists.
The thing I loved the most about Rescued is its simple language which grabs you by the throat from scene one and refuses to let go till you reach the end. The other thing is the character growth arc of Naina from a doormat personality with no clue about her own desires to a woman who makes the right choices for the right reasons. And well, if I gush any more about Arjun I will be accused of biased favoritism, but Shilpa, seriously couldn’t you have at least given him a mole or something to detract from that hero-like perfection?
I also love that the mom has been relegated to a secondary character with no name at all, signifying how little impact she has on her daughter’s life and her husband’s commanding presence, not to mention Aditya. Read him, y’all. You’ll want him to have his own book, guaranteed.
If there is a tiny wrinkle with the book, I’d say that it has too few moments of passion (and one very ill-timed one) but it takes absolutely nothing away from the story or its characters.
Four and a half stars (Half a star taken for the minimal sex scenes)
Priyanka Menon is my friend. Priyanka Menon is a romance writer. Priyanka Menon is a romance writer and my friend AND an accomplished spoken-word poet in her own right, but the one thing that pleasantly surprised me as I started reading “The One That Got Away” was that she is a GOOD romance writer. Friend pride and prejudice aside, a good story can only hold your attention and interest and The One does all that and more.
Meet Mithi. She is an artist living in Paris who’s come down to Aamchi Mumbai for her besties’ – Geet and Karan’s – wedding. They have all been friends forever (since school) and the fourth point in the quartet is Jairam Nair. Mithi’s best BFF in school and someone she hasn’t seen since the last day of.
I call Shyamita Bose, Mithi, just like Jai does, because she is sweet and nice and fragile. The fragile is backed up by a spine of steel when necessary, as any heroine should be but mostly I call her Mithi cuz it is such a happy sound. Points for that, Priyanka.
Anyway, Mithi and Jai, (national bestselling author, all-round hunk) meet at the wedding. An awkward first meeting ensues in which both are not just tongue-tied but actively seeing each other as desirable people. This process is helped by not being in touch for more than a decade and thus, not having to deal with the minutiae of facial hair, waxing, having boobs and chest hair and what not.
Their chemistry is palpable but shocking, not to anyone but themselves.
In the grand tradition of a big, fat, Punjabi wedding we are slowly and quietly introduced to the single point break of what had been an unbreakable friendship. The painful teenage yearning of falling in love for the first time (and the last) is expressed beautifully and contrasts nicely with the tumult of falling in love all over again.
And then we come to the very adult problems facing Mithi and Jai: aka Commitment Phobia. Yes, there is heat, chemistry, sexy love-making and long, soulful glances but Handsome Jai (I call him that in my head, Priyanka) cannot do the one thing; the only thing Mithi wants: Admit to his feelings for her, for damaging and totally valid reasons of his own.
And Mithi with her steely spine under the delicate Madonna exterior holds firm on this one point, even as she tries to help him banish his demons and love him with all her heart.
The primary love story has a life of its own and Priyanka, like me is a fan of two characters coming full circle (get back to me on this, readers), but what completely enchanted me was the way all the secondary characters gelled in the story. Given full screen time and treated like the individuals they were and not just props to the main hero-heroine-conflict resolution.
In particular I love Mrs. Nair, the wise mom who has endured so much and still maintains a serene heart and Geet Chaddha – bubbly, headstrong and with a heart a mile wide that you cannot help but root for her as she tries to knock some sense into her chaddi-buddy Jai.
The writing is pacy and exquisite in a few places and the story holds its own on a second reading too.
If I would take away anything from The One and its author, it would be Mithi’s crying. She cries. A LOT. It’s not healthy. Priyanka, next time make your woman kick ass. And also, write me into a book where I, the bestselling author gets to live in a penthouse with my very own Handsome Jai.
Four and a Half Stars (Half a star taken for the crying)
Till next time
Updated: A previous version of this post called the book The One Who Got Away
There is a wonderfully poignant scene right towards the end of Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck where Amy Townsend who finally looks old enough to be in her late 20s, admits to her younger, much more with it sister, “I am broken.” And it gets you, right in the heart where all your (not-so) secret vulnerabilities and insecurities live. God knows, it got me.
Hello y’all, welcome to my first review on this site. I don’t often review movies because I enjoy them too much and it seems pointless to opinionate on anything just because I have a soapbox to do it from. But, Trainwreck, Trainwreck deserves talking about. Not because it redefines the way romantic comedies will be treated in the years to come or because it is funny and warm and heartbreaking and just so fucking GOOD, and of course, it is….but because like Chef, it touched me. My heart. And I would like to talk about why.
The story in a nutshell is this: Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is an almost-alcoholic, talented writer working at S’Nuff, a GQ-Cosmo parody of a Manhattan magazine run by a nearly unrecognizable Style Goddess Tilda Swinton whose latest assignment turns out to be Dr Aaron Connors, a Sports doctor who casually counts LeBron James as his best friend. Yes, it’s that kind of a movie, y’all so suck it up.
The premise sounds like anything Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew McConaughey have done in the early-mid 2000s (not counting Ghosts of Girlfriends Past which was 2011), but here’s where TW takes the genre and turns it on its silly, bubblegum head.
Amy is the screw up.
She casually sleeps with everything that moves, and sometimes doesn’t even that after she gets what she wants, like every male lead at the beginning of a romantic comedy movie. She has a dysfunctional relationship with her womanizing father (Colin Quinn) and her harrowed but utterly normal sister (Brie Larson) whom she disdains every opportunity she gets. She has the requisite nice boyfriend, a delightful John Cena flexing his comedic muscles as well as a toned hot BOD (oh my GOSH) who dreams of having Screwup Amy as the Queen of his Crossfit Kingdom. Her friend is fellow SNL alumni Vanessa Bayer who works at S’Nuff and casually takes Amy’s Exec editor job without much remorse and they still remain friends, like every bro-relationship that ever existed.
Amy is so much like a guy that she doesn’t even like to spend the night at a man’s place once she’s Wham Bammed them.
Aaron on the other hand, played by a man who I have LOVED ever since I first saw him on SNL, the incomparable Bill Hader, is just himself. He is a good guy. He does Doctors without Borders and dunks a basketball on LeBron James (a feat which even he recognizes shouldn’t be possible in the physical universe) and generally behaves like an actual person instead of the jerk with a heart of gold who is fixed by the love of a good woman. He is a NICE GUY, not without his flaws, of course (he wears tightey whities, YUCK!) but not the smooth as Lagavulin Romantic Hero that we have come to expect from this genre.
So what happens when these two opposites meet? Everything that is expected. She is attracted, he is attracted; they start dating. And falling in love. They go to movies, watch boats at Central Park and even make Amy sick by how cute they are. And they make Amy scared that she’ll do something to mess it up, which is such a NORMAL reaction for a screwup that I was surprised to see it being acknowledged on film.
Amy knows she isn’t good enough for him. She knows her father is a cheating, lying bastard of a man. She knows her sister has it very good (a house in the burbs, a stepkid and another on the way) and a man who loves her for what she is, even when he doesn’t understand her. And she waits for the other shoe to fall.
Which, it does, when she picks her job over an important awards function that he wants her to be a part of and it leads to the inevitable meltdown which leads to the inevitable breakup, which leads to the inevitable self-actualization and inevitable grand gesture HEA. All par for the course for a romantic comedy, and that is what Trainwreck is.
But, the thing that sets TW apart, again, is Amy. Amy is messed up. The woman who has everything and makes no apologies for it, is the confused, hurting, disappointed, cynical woman who cannot handle a mature relationship. And Aaron is the decent guy. Not Prince Charming, nor Sir Galahad who wants to fix her, but Just THE DECENT GUY (I seriously cannot stress this enough).
Aaron is not incredibly handsome, nor is he overly smooth but you can see his earnestness and his heart when he looks at Amy and tells her, almost helplessly, “I am in love with you. I am crazy about you.” And I will admit it, I was so envious of an on-screen character for that one moment, because every woman wants a man who doesn’t know why he needs a woman but needs her anyway.
The jokes are funny because the jokes aren’t set up as gags. It is unbelievable to have LeBron James interrogate Amy about her intentions toward his best pal, Aaron, but it is exactly what best friends do. They look out for each other. There are a couple heartrending moments, one of which I already mentioned at the beginning of this review and the funeral scene straight up had me weeping, which is extremely unexpected in a romantic comedy.
It is different because a woman wrote a romantic movie about how women, real, fucked up, damaged women behave in love and sometimes cock it up with perfectly good guys. Yes, it’s a romance so obviously she dresses up as a cheerleader and promises to spread joy in the future but GOD, to have a woman acknowledge that we have sex, we think about sex, we enjoy it as much as men and to have LeBron James say “make love” instead of “banging or screwing or nailing”…. Well, you get the picture, don’t you?
Judd Apatow, who is best-known for his sleazeball comedies (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This is 40) gets out of his lead actors’ way and just lets the story unfold and the result is a romance you don’t mind watching on repeat.
Yes, its overly long (just like this review), could have definitely done without that Client Intervention scene, Ames, but you know what, I am absolutely OK with it. Absolutely OK. Just Like I know you are, with Aaron.
And, even more importantly, he is with you.
For someone who hasn’t written any romance for a whole year because of how fucked up, damaged and unloved she felt on the inside, Trainwreck, Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer held up a mirror and told me, “It’s ok to be messed up. You’ll find a decent guy too who’ll be absolutely OK with you. God knows, if I can, so can you.” And you know what? It’s what every woman should really want.
A Decent Man who is absolutely OK with you. Not Prince Charming or Sir Galahad, because in this day and age, we rescue ourselves, y’all. We just need a gentle reminder from someone who is absolutely OK with us that we can.
Image Credit: Net7Art