An Indian-American serio-comic and magical realist love story about the perils of ambition, tracing the mysterious alchemy of its characters' transformation from high school in an Atlanta suburb through young adulthood in the Bay Area.
... 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.