... a satirical and insightful sendup of startup culture ... The real story unfolding here is that of Asha's feminist awakening. Her evolving epiphanies are served up in an engagingly sarcastic and ironic voice with sharply observed details ... As empowering and welcome as this non-victimhood narrative sounds, there are some off-key notes. While the supporting characters, from Asha's Bangladeshi American family members to her Utopian family members, are effective foils during each milestone of Asha's journey, the latter sometimes succumb to well worn stereotypes. Thankfully, with the former, Anam doesn't dwell on tired South Asian family tropes other than to skillfully poke fun at them ... within the still-evolving South Asian diasporic literary traditions, this novel is a much-needed addition because it gives us the experiences of our cultures and communities here and now in ways that don't erase or exoticize but celebrate them.
... funny and sharp ... brilliantly incisive ... is framed as a satirical novel about startup culture, but because Americans revere that culture, its foibles and failings are our failures, too ... While The Startup Wife is full of beautifully messy and enviable characters, Asha’s fierce feminism and candor stand out. Of course, she’s far from innocent. She’s a creative genius who wants her due, just as any man would. But it’s a delight to experience Asha’s first-person perspective of the world and her metamorphosis into a powerful, flawed woman ... Because The Startup Wife is sexy and funny and puts relationships at the forefront, it might be easy to overlook its depth and sophistication. But its priorities are right where they should be. When people create a community with their friends and lovers, it is inevitable that boundaries will dissolve and that friendship, love, ego and identity will become intertwined. The Startup Wife’s insights about modern relationships, gender politics, race, technology and culture are as excellent and vital as its storytelling.
Tahmima Anam creates a fun parody of today’s tech startup culture ... How lovely then would it have been if the book had also made any kind of meaningful contribution to the conversation on consent, feminism, women in male-dominated professions and any of the other broad spectrum of complex issues it tries to cover. Unfortunately, it does little else apart from reaffirming what the reader likely already knows—that technology cannot save the world and that men will sometimes let you down ... Worse still, Anam applies the same broad strokes to her characters, who seem like cardboard cut-outs standing in for genuinely interesting and complex people. We never get to know Asha, this cool-headed nerdy programmer better, nor do we get to understand how the artistic, sensitive and utterly obnoxious Cyrus became who he is. Likewise, the extended cast of young founders ... What irks most of all is that Anam seems to present no clear point of view on any of the issues she tackles. Yes, women play as much of a role in diminishing themselves as men do; yes, all the organic superfoods in the world can’t protect against climate change; yes, men have fragile egos; and, yes, the startup world is starting to seem very much like a cartoon of itself. These seem to be the only messages, scrawled in crayon with no shadow or depth. Opinion can come guised as parody and humour can make you think and feel; sadly, The Startup Wife does not even try to be more.
While the startup journey may seem a well-trodden path, Anam is no novice when it comes to raising the emotional stakes ... her experience shows in this deftly crafted tale ... Anam knows of what she writes and is unafraid to call out the misogyny that dominates our so-called brave new world, often deploying biting wit to devastating effect ... Like all good startup propositions, The Startup Wife is glossy and readable and looks more obvious than it is, but unlike most of them it’s not dependent on smoke and mirrors to keep you invested.
There's delicious humor in Asha's subtly savage takedowns of the Silicon Valley system...but the novel's biggest strengths show as Anam deftly explores the gender politics of the book's central partnership. As Asha finds herself disillusioned, the reader finds someone to root for.
What’s surprising is not the plot itself, but its wholesomeness — despite all the novel’s trappings of tech skepticism ... Asha offers little analysis of the topic about which she is supposedly an underappreciated expert, and as a result the book demonstrates an overall acceptance of the tech industry and its machinations, suggesting its problems can be solved merely by giving women a seat at the table ... Even as the idealist tenets of WAI’s manifesto — no trying to persuade people to buy things, no spying, the team is paramount — crumble, the earnestness with which Anam approaches her characters papers over the selfishness, cynicism and myopia that pervade their insular world. And the heavy foreshadowing suggests a much bigger marital breakdown than the Paltrowian conscious uncoupling we get instead. Although Asha is supposed to be the talented foil to a man who thinks he can get by on good will and charisma, she never keeps the novel itself from trying to do just that.
Anam is excellent on the intricacies of sexism and racism (Asha is Bengali) and how migrant experiences differ ... Elsewhere the author is less astute; a section at the end set during the Covid-19 pandemic feels shoehorned in (it was apparently a late addition). And too much of the novel is devoted to meetings about funding, which, while obviously a time-consuming aspect of building a business, makes for slightly tiresome reading ... Thankfully, though, Anam’s writing is stylish and funny (quite a feat given that her novel deals with religion, social media and doomsday preppers) and she guides the reader deftly towards a satisfying conclusion.
Packaged as edgy chick lit, Tahmima Anam’s The Startup Wife has grander ambitions ... The platform’s premise is remarkably well conceived and threatens at times to derail the storyline with examples of how users rely on the aptly named WAI (We Are Infinite) for spiritual guidance. The other characters in the book are not as well-conceived as Asha is, and the VCs are nothing more than colorful caricatures, but our protagonist has some likable wing(wo)men, including her sister and a couple of feminist app developers ... For anyone interested in the world of social media, The Startup Wife is a fascinating insider’s view of the exhilarating, exhausting chase for relevance.
From the all-consuming social media platform that hogs centre stage to the deadly pandemic that looms over its ending, The Startup Wife pulses with up-to-the-minute topicality ... The end result may not be entirely persuasive philosophically, but as high-octane entertainment that hits notes poignant as well as savagely witty, it soars ... Asha can’t decide whether she’s been betrayed or merely sidelined at WAI; all she knows is that she isn’t about to let Cyrus take the credit ... While it doesn’t altogether fit with how the story unfolds, and it certainly isn’t going to help tech address its chronic and very real women problem (not necessarily fiction’s job anyway), it does disrupt the familiar feeling of disempowerment that comes with victimhood. It also feels true that to Asha, amid the glossy allure of Utopia, any level of unvarnished authenticity seems downright subversive.
... blessedly comic; a satire on the madness of tech tyranny, underpinned by a bitter-sweet feminist love story ... a highlight of Anam’s book is a mind-blowing startup offering interaction with your deceased loved ones. Ludicrous sci-fi? Hardly ... Tech geeks will read the book with knowing amusement; those of us floundering in the rarefied air will encounter baffling jargon and acronyms scattered like birdseed through the pages. But if you don’t know your CTOs from your IPOs or an elevator pitch from a vertical, forget the STEM and enjoy the novel as a witty predictive comedy of manners—until, with a stealthy nudge, Utopia’s future morphs into our present.
Asha's voice carries the novel; readers will follow eagerly as she grapples with her and Jules's decision to have Cyrus serve as the face of the company while she works nonstop behind the scenes to create and sell it ... Drawing on aspects of the author's life, this tech-oriented novel offers readers a glimpse of the challenges of creating and running a startup. Anam brings the issue of gender equality in work and relationships to the forefront of the narrative. With a mention of the current pandemic woven into the story, Anam's modern tale has plenty of talking points that will make it a good selection for book groups.
... spectacular ... Anam provides a piercing perspective on marital and business institutions and gender bias and cultural clashes, and weaves in rich local color as Asha grows reacquainted with her childhood home and her parents’ Muslim community. This is a powerful statement on the consequences of public achievement on private happiness.
Anam's fourth novel is very good on all the tech and millennial accoutrements, with imaginary apps for everything from consensual sex to anal hygiene and no scene complete without a glass of raspberry shrub or rosemary water. Nits: The outcome is overly signaled; feminism plays an odd role somewhere between liberation ideology and buzzkill; the front end of the pandemic crashing into the back end of the book seems unnecessary. A clever, often funny anti-romance novel set in the world of platforms, launches, engagements, and turmeric lattes.