Patel’s Indian-American characters aren’t reduced to the status of model minorities or 7-11 owners. Instead, they’re introduced through a panorama of character studies ... Patel gets the patter of the Indian-American household just right; the prim palaver around the tea salver strikes the right balance of nosiness and restraint ... Patel’s characters may not learn from experience, but they pursue it with vigor — part of what makes the collection so refreshing. Where so much fiction about the immigrant family tends to become an exercise in anthropology, a study of inherited customs foisted on a child caught between cultures, Patel’s characters are fundamentally engaged with the world ... His gifts are not so much psychological as dramatic. He has a screenwriter’s knack for getting everyone in the same room, and the early stories fuse plot and subplot in a consistently surprising fashion.
Debut-author Patel’s 10 compact yet meaty stories feature characters—most of them first-generation Indian Americans, as the author is—trying to navigate a world full of expectations (go to college, land a prestigious job, get married, have children) only to find themselves continually thwarted ... Patel explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters in even the briefest stories. Readers in search of a fresh new voice should be on the lookout for Patel.
The 11 seemingly casual and quietly feverish stories in Patel’s debut follow the plight of young first- or second-generation Indian-Americans. Some characters are gay and some straight, but most of them have grown up in suburban Midwest towns where they are viewed as vaguely exotic as, in an effort to find love, they struggle to please or break away from their families. Expected to become doctors or lawyers, they often rebel in sneaky or ineffective ways ... Patel has a knack for depicting the gap between how characters experience their lives and how they are expected to be seen—and how those gaps can widen into life-changing fractures. This is a perceptive, moving collection.
In god of destruction, which opens the collection, an unhappy interior designer has a one-night stand with the 22-year-old cable guy after a botched internet date. 'No one ever told me that happiness was like a currency: that when it goes, it goes, and that few people are willing to give you some of theirs,' she reflects. Later, she’ll write the incident out of her history. In 'just a friend,' a 22-year-old college dropout meets a handsome married dentist at a Chicago gay bar only to find out, after a romantic weekend together, that the man isn’t who he seems. The title story is both the simplest and the showstopper, about the troubled relationship between two brothers, told from the perspective of the high-achieving youngest, now a doctor ... At the core of Patel’s stories is a sense of loss, more powerful for its quiet restraint. Not every story is an equal knockout, which is a hazard of the format, but Patel’s deep sense of empathy—and infuriatingly relatable characters—shines throughout.