... a work of 24-karat genius. This remarkable debut novel melts down striving immigrant tales, Old West mythology and even madcap thrillers to produce an invaluable new alloy of American literature ... Charting the route that generations of Indian immigrants have taken to these shores, Sathian locates the precarious nexus of pride and anxiety where so many newcomers reside ... in the process, she plumbs the universal challenge of satisfying the hunger for more — more money, more prestige, more time — an obsession that would make any of us strangers to ourselves ... Sathian creates that cul-de-sac with a wry and loving eye — a kind of South Asian version of The Wonder Years, with Neil’s awkward antics narrated by his older self ... Sathian’s portrait of this mania is tempered with enough tenderness to make it witty but never bitter ... Sathian’s effervescent social satire breaks the bonds of ordinary reality and rises to another level ... the real miracle here is the way Sathian melds that ancient magic to the contours of her otherwise natural story of contemporary life. Like Aimee Bender, Karen Russell and Colson Whitehead, she’s working in a liminal realm where the laws of science aren’t suspended so much as stretched ... In a dazzling demonstration of Sathian’s range, the book’s second half jumps a decade later, beyond the tragedy of Neil’s adolescence to the smoldering wreckage of his adulthood. It’s a jarring transition — and meant to be ... With Neil’s struggle to find a usable past and a viable future, Sathian has created a funny, compassionate, tragic novel of astonishing cultural richness. She understands the contradictory, sometimes deadly demands that second-generation young people face, but she commands the narrative power to demonstrate that this struggle is central rather than merely tangential to the American experience. The result is a novel of Indian magic and modern technology, a parody of New World ambition and an elegy of assimilation. Looking up from the pages of this sparkling debut, I experienced something like the thrill the luckiest 49ers must have felt: Gold! Gold! Gold!
Of the novel’s many plotlines, all are secondary to the wrenching, will-they-or-won’t-they love story between Neil and Anita...their final childhood exchanges, in person and via AIM are, for all this novel’s leaps of imagination, achingly real reminders of what it was like to be an adolescent in post-9/11 America, feeling the weight of your parents’ dreams on your shoulders, but mostly just wanting to drink and make out ... The tension Sathian builds is one of teenage insecurity swelling into adulthood, until disillusion overthrows the tyranny of American perfectionism ... This intimate glimpse of millennials who are second-generation Americans shows how history repeats.
Sanjena Sathian's debut novel, Gold Diggers, is full of voice ... [a] rollicking, at times painful, and ultimately intensely satisfying tale ... One of the wonderful things about Sathian's writing is how imperfect she allows Neil to be: he can be shallow, vain, awkward, and selfish. Yet it's so easy to root for him, because he's just so terribly alive, his adult narration inhabiting his teenage self honestly, without sugarcoating ... [Eternalism] also lies at the heart of the book's structure, which twines historical fictions and truths and family histories into the main narrative, exemplifying how time both does and does not make a linear kind of sense, how past, present, and future's paths collide at times in unexpected ways.
Sathian’s satire is pitch perfect when it emphasizes the role of gossip in the affluent Indian American community ... savagely funny ... Sathian...captures not only the melancholia of the immigrant’s social estrangement, but also the painful expectation that this melancholia should be worth it somehow, that one should achieve and then achieve some more ... Initially, the novel’s satire reminded me of Gossip Girl or You, where it’s not entirely clear whether we’re being presented a real critique or simply a cheerful, glossy exaltation of young sociopaths. There are characterizations that veer toward true unpleasantness ... The heist is magnificent—canny and moving and just plain fun. Where the first half mimed the Indian American community’s behavior a bit too closely, blunting the traditional tools of satire such as exaggeration or incongruity, Sathian’s movement toward fantasy in the story’s second half is a wise, satisfying turn. Her prose lifts off: there’s a delight she takes in writing humorously about magic that shows off the scope of her immense talent ... The novel resolves beautifully.
... a dazzling and delightful work of fiction by an exciting new literary talent ... Sathian has produced a beguiling elixir with Gold Diggers, skillfully stirring myth into a playful yet powerful modern-day examination of the American dream and the second-generation citizens who pursue it. A fabulist amalgam of The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye, it’s an engrossing cautionary tale as well as a shrewd appraisal of what we consider success—and the moral sacrifices we make to achieve it ... Imaginative and intoxicating, Gold Diggers richly rewards its readers.
Sathian’s writing imbues the novel’s seemingly conventional settings with myth and history, and although the novel serves as a harsh rebuke of the American dream and of the model minority myth, it also holds out hope for individuals to find their own paths ... The novel is dramatic and intriguing with its heists, magic, and romantic subplots, but it is also deeply sad at times ... Sathian’s own research into history and mythology adds depth to the novel’s intellectual landscape without crowding the very human stories she’s telling ... Ultimately...the novel is not dark. In fact, it is filled with hope.
... crackles with sarcasm and wit. Sathian has adroitly captured a cutthroat academic environment where students feel compelled to ace tests, win awards and maintain the flawless appearance of pageant winners. She has painted infinitely flawed characters who engage in cringeworthy behavior while also shining a light on their humanity ... Sathian scrupulously deconstructs the hypocrisy of the tight-knit community in Gold Diggers, where adults swiftly judge others’ marriages, looks and children’s perceived failures before they’ve even had the chance to hit puberty ... a dazzling tale.
Here is a superb example of modern magical realism ... picks up a wonderful pace, and its plot and characters mature exponentially ... Sathian employs gold to represent the ambitious perseverance of Indian American families, but she doesn’t shy away from criticizing the high-pressure environment that’s often inherent with Indian American communities ... Aside from a stagnating exposition and an unremarkable closing, Gold Diggers is an excellent debut, offering insight into the Indian American experience and how to channel ambition through time.
... terrific ... The giddy heist-movie energy of what ensues powers the first half of Gold Diggers: It’s all teens high on hormones and lemonade, pickpocketing their classmates for glory. But Sathian capably balances the slick pleasures of Neil and Anita’s small-time crimes with a clear-eyed foreboding ... The project of Gold Diggers is to deconstruct that dream. But what makes the novel so compelling is the playfulness with which Sathian deconstructs it. You feel for the characters and the ways they have been warped by their pursuit of greatness and the ways they are haunted by their sins — but also, there are heists and alchemy. It’s a blast.
Exploring the many meanings of the clever title, this multilayered work looks at the history of Indians in America since the gold rush, the matrimonial prospects of gold diggers, and the ethical ramifications of stealing gold for use in alchemy, even to help a loved one ... A fast-paced, well-crafted story about what it means to be both Indian and American
Sathian, who writes with great assurance and verve, wields her pen like a magnifying lens to examine the foibles of immigrants who are high achievers but somewhat insular and insecure ... Sathian’s satirical take on Harvard-obsessed parents and strivers is cringingly funny, but poignant as well ... Sathian is at her best when she probes the psyche of second-generation desis like Neil and Anita ... The twisty plot in the latter half is less compelling, and some may find that the magic realism detracts from the acute social realism of an author who could be a desi Jane Austen of suburbia ... But the tightly woven novel ends satisfyingly.
Out of this nugget of magical realism, Sathian spins pure magic ... Filled with pathos, humor, slices of American history, and an adrenaline-pumping heist, Sathian’s spectacular debut also highlights the steep costs of the all-American dream ... Pure gold.
... dazzling ... While the stakes feel a bit lower as the final ploy plays out, the sharp characterizations bring humor and contemplation in equal measure, touching on the pressures Neil and Anita face to produce a legacy that honors their parents’ sacrifices. Sathian’s bildungsroman isn’t one to miss.
... a refreshing tweak of the assimilation novel ... Just as Sathian artfully and convincingly conjures a world in which such a drink exists, she sensitively exposes how its powers backfire ... Sathian’s shifts into romance- and heist-novel tropes in the late going aren’t always graceful, but she does a fine job of showing how the ladder-climbing, Ivy League–or-bust fixations of Neil and Anita’s community lead to hollow grown-up behavior. (Especially when blended with all-American go-getter–ism; Neil acquires robust Adderall and coke habits.) Sathian has a knack for page-turner prose, but the story has plenty of heft ... A winningly revamped King Midas tale.