I love and I mean LOVE Christmas time. Not for the lights and decorations or even the music but those are all a great backdrop to my true love, Christmas movies and more importantly Christmas themed books. While I love the Hallmark(y) movies and books they can be a bit repetitive and predictable, so this year I was in search of something a little different. My stack of Christmas books is so large I’m a little overwhelmed on what order to read them. Buddy reads and book clubs help a little but what about in between? I won Holly Jolly Diwali (HJD) by Sonya Lalli from Goodreads and when I opened my calendar to roughly map out what to read for November, Diwali was starting soon so it just felt meant to be that I would kick off holiday reading with something a little out of the norm for me. HJD is the story of Niki, an Indian American that stays close to home, follows the rules of predictability, even dated the perfect men at least on paper. When Niki loses her job and decides to throw caution to the wind and travel to India for her best friend’s (Diya) wedding she hopes to get some clarity and relaxation after such a huge change to her future. While the reader travels to India with Niki and meets her friends and family we also learn the process of an Indian wedding, why Diwali is celebrated and how the Indian culture shapes the way love is experienced and embraced.
Of course like everything I else I do this turned into a “give a mouse a cookie” situation. I needed to learn more about Diwali so I could have a little background to the celebration and what these characters were celebrating. While Diwali wasn’t the main focus of the book, more an opening setting, I still felt drawn to learning more, but I also needed to start the school day…that meant we all learned more about Diwali. This tied in great to our study on the caste system in India. We watched a few YouTube videos including a read aloud of Binny’s Diwali which was super cute and informative! Niki also went a journey to discover why Diwali is celebrated and what it means to her culture. Ultimately, we all learn that the celebration of light is about letting the in the light and goodness that triumphs over evil. It is the celebration of new beginnings and prosperity and new adventure.
Diwali wasn’t the only thing I learned from this book. I learned about the sexual assault and discrimination that women and certain member’s of society faced, I learned about traditional clothing and wedding traditions and I did a ton of research on the locations Niki visited in her journey.
Niki not only celebrated Diwali while she was in India but she meets Sam who is also making some big and unexpected life changes. Making yet another un-Niki like decision she joins Sam on Diya’s group honeymoon where she meets Sam’s family and gets to know the real Sam and maybe even a little of the real Niki. I also enjoyed seeing Niki and her parents relationship change, for the good and Niki finally understanding why her parents decided to raise her so American. It’s such a common theme in immigrant families-walking the line between the culture they leave behind and the one they join.
This book was so unexpected for me. I entered the giveaway because Goodreads told me to and I’ve already explained why I read it when I did. I expected a fun easy rom-com, my fave, and it was that but so much more also. I wasn’t prepared for the rabbit whole of research I would go down. I really enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone that loves rom-coms, especially those set in the holiday season.
Triggers: language, colorism, sexual assault
Rating: 4 huge stars
Thank you again to Goodreads for the giveaway!