Jaswal’s well-crafted novel blends mystery, social commentary, and human drama into a fascinating amalgam that highlights the plight of decidedly unseen women undertaking cheap labor that exposes them to all sorts of abuse. The story feels authentic and is timely as it portrays enterprising women and the unfortunate circumstances that galvanize them.
Well-crafted characters add to the heartfelt drama in Now You See Us, Balli Kaur Jaswal’s alluring literary mystery ... Jaswal’s scathing indictment of the exploitation of immigrant labor unfolds against a tantalizing backdrop, revealing the rich culture of Singapore while shedding light on systems of oppression and entitlement ... While the sleuthing maids make for an engaging plot, the nuances of Jaswal’s characters and their relationships are even more complex and intriguing. In simple yet evocative ways, she peels back the layers of each woman, revealing how their choices are restricted by their past predicaments and current circumstances.
The novel doesn’t shy away from contemporary politics but doesn’t preach, either. Rather, it examines the lives of people who are part of a complex, often exploitative global system that devalues the lives of women and the profound responsibilities that are classified as women’s work—the rules these women must abide, both spoken and unspoken, their hopes and aspirations, and their varied grief. It’s a layered, compelling read.
Jaswal effectively balances the murder mystery plot and the dramas of the individual women; they each take agency over their own lives and find, if not truly happy endings, at least satisfying ones. This sympathetic, humane look at low-paid domestic workers will resonate with many.