R E V I E W : A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

A Holly Jolly Diwali 
by Sonya Lalli

Niki Randhawa has always strived to be a perfect Indian daughter, choosing a tech career over music, her passion, and always following the rules, including dating men of whom her parents would approve. Her carefully planned future shatters, however, when she’s laid off from her job.

Realizing that always doing the “right” thing hasn’t led to success or happiness, Niki impulsively books a flight to Mumbai to attend the wedding of her friend, Diya.

At a lively Diwali celebration, Niki eyes the band’s bass player, later to learn he is London musician Sameer Mukherji, a close friend of Diya. During the wedding celebration and subsequent group honeymoon, Niki and Sam grow closer, with Sam encouraging Niki to follow her passion. Living in different countries, their fling, no matter what feelings it might generate, can only be finite—unless the both take risks, reveal secrets, and stray from the expected path.

My favorite part of the book was the Indian setting, both Mumbai and Goa, which were vividly described. There is also a great sibling relationship between Niki and her older sister.

An important theme throughout the book is familial and cultural expectations and how they shape us and how miscommunication or faulty assumptions can intensify them. It also addresses colorism, class, and gender and income inequality in India.

While I liked Niki and Sam, and was even convinced that the wedding/ honeymoon environment could engender a rapid attraction, they also had communication issues, which at times were frustrating but also necessary to move the plot. For example, I wished Niki hadn’t deflected so much with humor.

Though the book has a fun Christmas scene, Diwali is celebrated in October or November. But, I am here for non-Christmas love stories!

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!