The Curious Secrets of Yesterday

by Chandra Sundeep
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Cover image of The curious secrets of yesterday by Namrata Patel

The Curious Secrets of Yesterday by Namrata Patel, like her previous works, delves into the intricate lives of desi families in America. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Scent of a Garden and The Candid Life of Meena Dave, her latest work left me disappointed.

Despite exploring compelling themes of complex family dynamics and secrets against an Indian backdrop, the weak plot, unbalanced characters, loosely tied subplots, and dragging storyline made it a letdown. I felt as if the author was trying to achieve too much with a single story.

The narrative revolves around Tulsi Gupta, an unmarried woman in her thirties living with her family in Salem. Coming from a lineage of spice healers, Tulsi helps manage their family-owned store, ‘Raasa.’ Her mother, Devi, and grandmother, Aruna, have dedicated their lives to healing through Ayurveda and expect Tulsi to continue their legacy. However, Tulsi is uncertain about her desires and lacks the courage to discuss her aspirations with her mother and grandmother. Adding to the tension is a secret family curse resulting in the early widowhood of Gupta women.

The appearance of Lucas Sharma, a mysterious and handsome bachelor who has taken over the deli next door, adds a predicted romantic angle to the story. An unexpected visitor, Ashish, arriving at Tulsi’s shop, sets off a series of events that propel the narrative forward. As secrets from the past unravel, more characters like Hema, Leena, and Beena are introduced.

Patel’s descriptive prowess shines as she transports readers to Salem, perfectly complementing the story’s themes of secrets and the mystical power of spices. I enjoyed the author’s detailed portrayal of spices and their healing properties.

Despite Patel’s attempt to create suspense around Ashish’s identity, the mystery was predictable. The relationship among the three Gupta women—Tulsi, Devi, and Aruna—is fraught with unaddressed issues. Devi’s portrayal, in particular, is unappealing, as she is frequently in tears, reminiscent of Nirupa Roy, the perpetually tearful yesteryear Bollywood actress. Aruna’s control freak tendencies, though justified by her past struggles, appear to be overly eccentric. However, the character development of Hema and the twins is well-executed, making them more likable as the story progresses.

Though Tulsi is the main protagonist, Ashish is my favourite character. Lucas’s potential is underutilized, and Tulsi’s interactions with him are pitiful. The romance between Tulsi and Lucas, as well as between Devi and Ashish, feels rushed and underdeveloped.

While Patel’s skillful narration and the enchanting setting offer some redeeming qualities, the overall execution of the story leaves much to be desired. This book might appeal to fans of Patel’s previous works, looking for familiar themes, but it falls short of the mark compared to her earlier novels.

The much-anticipated revelation of the family curse was anticlimactic. I was expecting much more and was saddened to find the grand secret was nothing but a web of lies.

Despite the intriguing elements of generational hierarchy, complex family dynamics, secrets, and exotic settings, The Curious Secrets of Yesterday fails to captivate.

 

Wordsopedia Rating–2.45/5

 

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Brilliance Audio. This review reflects my honest and voluntary opinion.

 

Title: The Curious Secrets of Yesterday Author: Namrata Patel
Publisher: Brilliance Audio Publication date: June 1, 2024
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary Format: Audiobook
ISBN: 9789391618384 No. of Pages: 248

Buy your copy here on Amazon

 

About the author
Namrata Patel is an Indian American writer who resides in Boston. Her writing examines diaspora and dual-cultural identity among Indian Americans and explores this dynamic while also touching on the families we’re born with and those we choose. Namrata has lived in India, New Jersey, Spokane, London, and New York City and has been writing most of her adult life.

Get in touch with her on her website.

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