Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Review: Everything was Good-bye by Gurjinder Basran
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Source: Personal Copy
Everything was Good-bye introduces Meena, a young Punjabi girl living in British Columbia struggling to fit in with her peer’s and fight her strict community. Meena will never experience the freedom of her peer’s unless she walks away from the family, and break her mother’s heart. She’s seen this first-hand when one of her older sisters is expelled from the family. As much as Meena would love to lead her own life and make her own decisions, she can’t put her mother through the torture and embarrassment of another daughter gone astray. Meena is caught in the traditions of her close-knit Punjabi community. As Meena tries to asset her independence, she discovers that there are eyes and ears everywhere, and they never hesitate to report back to her mother. Eventually, Meena gives up and agrees to a traditional marriage. Everyone is jealous of her perfect match, but Meena still wonders about the high school boy who stole her heart.
The first section of the novel presents a young, frustrated and rebellious teenage Meena. She’s a second generation immigrant who wants freedom and independence. She wants to choose her own discipline, but her mother frowns upon her creative writing skills, her daughter should be a doctor or lawyer and nothing less. Meena is essentially torn between two cultures, desperate to make her own decisions. Readers learn that all of Meena’s sisters are married or about to be married according to the traditions, expect one. Her favorite sister, Harj has been gone for some time and no one has heard from her. As Meena finally decides to live according to the customs, her life enters a new difficult phase. The husband can do no wrong, and no matter what- her mother will always encourage her to return to her rightful place as a wife.
I really enjoyed Everything was Good-bye. It surpassed my expectations in many ways. Each section of the novel was engaging and emotional. Meena not only represents the second generation immigrant; she’s represents anyone who has fought against their parent’s wishes, dealt with stereotypes or lived in a strict tight-knit community. Basran did an incredible job describing Meena’s emotions, and thoughts. Readers really get a sense of who she is and where she is coming from. The only issue I had with the novel was the ending felt a little rushed. This one is recommended for those who are curious about immigration, and how families try to retain much of their culture.