An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage. Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn't need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends. But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.
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I loved this book -- until I hated it
I found this book to be fascinating, engaging and heart-rending.
There were several memorable moments in this story, but one of my favorites was when Lakshmi finally realizes her own worth and points it out to her husband. He is so astounded, he can hardly speak -- but that is when the tide begins to turn for Lakshmi's life. Of course, the "turn" actually began even earlier, when she met Maggie, and it is Maggie's influence that leads Lakshmi to stand up for herself.
I didn't have only one favorite scene, but several. But most of them involved Lakshmi's innocence and the moments when she would realize or understand something she previously had not. Those moments were charming and childlike and made me feel as proud of Lakshmi as if I'd been the author who created her, or was someone living in the book with her, who had known her.
The book made me smile often but also made me worry for the characters in their troubles and concerns -- a sure sign that the author has done a good job of pulling me in as a reader. I was engaged with all the characters to the point where I could hardly wait to know what happened to them next. My heart laughed and cried with them. And unlike with some books I've read or listened to, where I might care about one character more than another and so only want to get back to that plot line, in this book, I was interested equally in both sides of the story, so that when the author switched between characters, I was not annoyed or impatient to get back to "the one I like," but continued to be engaged with all characters and the book as a whole.
This is one of the best, most charming and entertaining narrations I've heard, particularly for the part of Lakshmi, and it was a pleasure to listen to all the way through. My one and ONLY criticism of the book is that it ended abruptly. I didn't even see it coming. I wanted to actually see the happy ending that was implied -- and which was, also, in no way guaranteed. Hence, my need to have just a few more chapters so as to really see assured the ending I hoped for. The abrupt ending so annoyed me that I ripped my headset off in anger. But just the same, I cannot discount this book. It was well written and so expertly narrated, with such interesting cultural insights and contrasts, plus simply being so charming in its prose, that I would still recommend it to any discerning listener.