Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal
"Like my mum's always said, Life isn't all ha ha hee hee, so if you know there's going to be a few tears, you might as well try and enjoy them" (Chila, 25)
Childhood friends Chila, Sunita, and Tania are as different as three (second generation Indian women living in the UK can be. Tania is a high-powered producer, who snagged a gorgeous white man; Sunita, a mother of two who's let her career take the backseat to her husband's; and Chila, naive enough to believe that, now married, she is going to live happily ever after.
Told alternatively from the perspectives of Chila, Sunita, Tania, and British observers, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee recounts a turbulent period in the friends' lives. In their mid-thirties, Chila, Sunita, and Tania seem to have settled into the slots they will occupy for the rest of their lives for better or worse. Everything changes, though, when Tania makes a documentary, starring both Chila and Sunita, about contemporary urban Indian life.
I enjoyed this book very much. Chila, Sunita, and Tania are all such full-bodied characters. Their struggles, both those revolving around balancing two disparate cultural expectations and those pertaining to their relationships (romantic and friendly), are real. Syal does a wonderful job of bringing to life the characters, their community, and their personal struggles. I also loved the glimpses Syal gives readers of the British outsiders' view of the Indian expatriate community.
I have Syal's other novel, Anita and Me, on my bookshelf. I tried reading it once, but couldn't get into it. I think I'll have to give it another go.