ANYONE CAN BE EXTRAORDINARY. BUT IT COMES AT A PRICE…
Neil Narayan’s parents moved to America for a better life, and his perfect older sister is now headed to an elite university. Neil is funny and smart, but he is not living up to his parents’ dream. While he tries to want their version of success, mostly, Neil just wants his neighbour across the street, Anita Dayal.
Once a lot like Neil, Anita is truly thriving academically, athletically and socially. Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewellery’s original owner. Anita just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. When Neil – who needs a whole lot more – stumbles onto their secret and joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.
Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned history grad student studying the California gold rush. Anita has given up her high-flying tech career and is working as an event planner, just for now. Anjali, the woman who gave them both so much, is in trouble, and only gold can save her. What choice do Anita and Neil have but to pull off one last heist?
Gold Diggers is a dazzling coming-of-age story that speaks to anyone who ever wondered quite how they belong, and who ever dreamed of being the very best they could be.
Gold diggers would, I am sure, resonate with many who have made the move from one country to another in the hopes of a better future. For Neil it was all about the expectation, the constant pressure from parents to live up to their dream of the perfect education, marriage, the American dream. Did Neil want and even live up to that American Dream?
Neil didn’t appear to be fulfilling his potential, no matter how hard he tried nothing was good enough, his sister the star. And that is where the trouble or indeed the real crux of the novel lay and what a brilliant job, Sathian did in showing a young teenager exploring his own culture and the complete misalignment with America.
As high school progressed so did his up and down relationship with neighbour, Anita. He was a teenager besotted and it was an admiration that never left but when Neil came across strange goings on in her mothers basement, it became even more interesting. The bubbling pot on the stove, the mutterings of ancient words had my imagination whirling into overdrive. You felt the same astonishment as Neil when the goings on were explained, you felt his belief in the old ways, ways that would bring him the success he needed and indeed the admiration of his parents. Of course it was never going to be plain sailing and as their paths diverged and they lost touch Neil’s obsession with gold and the gold rush became the tool by which Sathian examined in more detail his juxtaposition in life. Sathian gave us the early immigrants treated with suspicion, with scorn, punished because their intelligence, determination, brought them wealth but never respect. But had anything really changed? Did Neil and Anita find it any easier? For Sathian that was a definite no, the prejudice, the expectation, the work ethic was still altogether so much more than the average American. It was no wonder that the two characters lost their way, forged headlong into a gold heist driven by misguided traditions and a need to save themselves and those around them. It provided a suitably hair raising and exhilarating finale.
Gold diggers was that perfect dissection of the big American Dream, of a clash of cultures, of parents only wanting the best for their children. The children themselves were the ones caught in the middle, never destined to please anyone, forced to ride the waves until finally clarity and that feeling that maybe what they really needed to do was find their own success and happiness no matter what that may have been.
I would like to thank Simon Schuster U.K. for a copy of Gold Digger to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Sanjena Sathian is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an alumna of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and a former Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She has also worked as a journalist in San Francisco and in Mumbai.
Her award winning short fiction appears in Conjunctions, Boulevard, Joyland, Salt Hill, and The Master’s Review. She’s written nonfiction for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox, TIME, Food and Wine, and more.
She has taught creative writing to high school, college, graduate, and post-graduate level students in Iowa, Alaska, India, and New Zealand.