The Windfall is a quasi rags to riches novel about the middle class Jha family who become overnight millionaires. Not exactly the windfall as the title suggest, Mr. Jha hits it big when he sells the software he spent years working on. Now the Jha’s have gathered their friends and neighbors to tell them they are moving out of their close knit complex and to the high class exclusive neighborhood of Gergauhn.
What ensues is a comedy of manners as Mr. Jha goes out of his way to fit in. This includes acquiring objects that match his new status; like an uncomfortable diamond studded couch or an electric shoe polisher (Not that rich people use those, they just throw the shoes away as Mr. Jha finds out) . For readers there is something delightful about indulging in the absurdity and excess, while also getting second hand embarrassment at some of Mr.Jha’s antics.
As an American I felt like I was getting a little slice of what the culture is in East Delhi. Yes, there are a few explanatory commas along the way, but you are immersed in a part of the world and culture that’s outside the American experience. It bought to life some of the things I thought I understood about India like the tech culture, class system and arranged marriages.
Check it out romance fans, there is even a side story about the Jha’s widowed neighbor in her forties who is finding herself again as she begins to fall for the Jha’s rich neighbor’s brother, and their “seasoned romance” folded out at just the right pace.
With that said, to me, the storyline about the Jha’s adult son working on an MBA in America despite wanting to work in film, because he is afraid of shaming his parents and has a secret white American girlfriend felt a little short for me. However the moments when the Jha family has to stick together through the often awkward encounters with their judgmental neighbors will warm your heart.
Soneela Nankani’s quick, sardonic narration lovingly channels the outlandish and often comedic mishaps that befall the newly wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Jha in India as they rise from their middle-class roots and settle in the extravagantly wealthy city of Gurgaon. Nankani’s tone is that of a raised eyebrow as the Jhas get caught up in trying to keep up with the quirks and curiosities of their rich neighbors. Nankani’s supply of versatile accents shines, giving depth to the cast of old friends who aren’t ready to let the Jhas go. Between the humor, Nankani provides a thoughtful voice to characters who are struggling, such as the Jhas’ son, who is failing college, and their widowed neighbor, who may be ready for a second chance at love. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2017]