Scent of a Garden by Namrata Patel is an absorbing story of family dynamics, friendship, ambitions, and self-discovery.
Asha Patel (Poppy) is the daughter of a successful Indian-American hotelier. The hotel, once started by her grandfather on a smaller scale, is today one of the leading names in the world. Her father, Sanjay Patel, and mother, Sapna’s hard work and dedication, are the secret behind their success. Asha’s grandmother, Leela, is an inspiring woman who leads an independent and active life. Asha, despite being the sole heir, is not interested in taking care of the family hotel. She is gifted with a sense of smell. Encouraged by her mother and grandmother, she moves to Paris at the tender age of seventeen. She is a successful perfumer working in Paris with a leading brand.
The Desai family, another Indian-American leading hotel conglomerate, are Patel’s best friends. The Desai’s and Patel’s, despite being in the same industry, are a close-knit family. Neel, the scion of the Desai family, is Asha’s childhood friend and first love.
Unfortunately, Asha loses her sense of smell and is back home in California, after almost two decades. She feels lost and struggles to connect with her family. While her father wants her to take care of the family business, her mother vehemently opposes it, as always. Her grandmother tries everything to help Asha get her smell back. Torn between her family’s desires and her ambitions, Asha embarks on a path of self-discovery to find her own desires and reclaim her lost love.
Scent of a Garden is a well-researched book. I loved reading all about perfumes and teas. Strong family dynamics lie at the core of this story. Asha’s desire to succeed and carve a name for herself is the main underlying theme thread. I loved the Desai and Patel camaraderie, especially the extended family WhatsApp group, and the grandmothers who are breaking barriers. Kudos to Patel for steering away from stereotyping Indian Americans.
The story has three main female protagonists. Asha, Sapna, and Leela. All of them are strong and have their distinct voices. All these characters are relatable and well-sketched. Their varied family dynamics make the narration interesting. Asha’s relationship with her mother and grandmother is diametrically opposite and well described. Apart from them, the two Desai women play important roles.
Among the other characters, I loved Neel the most. I could go on and on about his laid-back attitude, sense of humour, relationship with his sister and grannies, cooking skills… Lemme just say… I will remember Neel for a long time.
Patel uses many Gujarati references. While I enjoyed reading them, readers unfamiliar with the language and culture might struggle a bit.
The Napa Valley settings are really descriptive and transported me miles away from my bedroom. It’s a slow-paced novel, but that didn’t hamper my reading experience.
Patel describes the struggle of three generations of women, and I could relate with each of them. The Nanis of Napa Valley are a delectable bunch of senior women. Some serious life goals there! It was interesting to see Asha’s progression as she dived deeper into the search for her identity.
Overall, I enjoyed most of the novel, except for Asha’s behaviour around Neel. It was contrasting with her character sketch. The ending was as I expected, but for some reason, it was rushed. I would have loved it even more if the author had shed light on the changed family dynamics at the end. The narration is slightly repetitive in the middle and the novel would have been equally enjoyable even if it was shorter by more than a dozen-odd pages.
Scent of a Garden is a wonderful story exploring interesting themes.
Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the arc of this book. My review is honest and voluntary.
Wordsopedia Rating 3.9/5
|Title: Scent of a Garden||Author: Namrata Patel|
|Publisher: Lake Union Publishing||Publication date: 13 Jun 2023|
|Genre: Fiction—General / Women’s||Format: eBook|
|ISBN: 9780861545414||No. of Pages: 352|
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About the author
Namrata Patel is an Indian-American author who lives in Boston. Her writing examines diaspora, dual-cultural identity among Indian-Americans and explores this dynamic while also touching on both—the families we’re born with and those we choose. Namrata has lived in India, Spokane, London, and New York City. Namrata has been writing for most of her adult life and loves creating characters who are relatable and aspirational. Her novel The Candid Life of Meena Dave is currently long listed for Best First Novel Prize by The Center for Fiction. Her second novel, The Scent of a Garden, will be released June 2023.
Get in touch with the author on her website.