“Twenty-nin-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that being practical hasn’t exactly worked out for her. So, for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Dina’s wedding.
Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.
When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband, and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. And when she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life – to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life of which the old Niki never would have dreamed.”
-Synopsis from back of the book
A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli was such a good book! I first heard about it when Jean Meltzer, author of The Matzah Ball, recommended it on her Instagram page. I thought the title and the cover were both cute, and added it to my to-read list. I requested a copy from the library, and when my hold came in I was eager to get my hands on this book.
From the first chapter, I knew I was going to like this story. It reads very much like a romantic comedy movie, which is always something I enjoy. Niki is a relatable twenty-something whose parents are worried about her lack of a dating life, though she has excelled in her professional life and career. She compares herself to her older sister Jasmine at times though she loves her sister and doesn’t want to feel negatively about her. After being let go from her job, a new friend encourages Niki to live boldly and be spontaneous. She decides to attend the wedding of her friend Diya, in Mumbai, even though she declined the invitation weeks ago because she wouldn’t have been able to take time off work.
There, Niki meets Sameer and is instantly drawn to him. Their connection right off the bat is undeniable and Sam encourages sides of Niki that she hasn’t allowed herself to embrace for years, such as her creativity and impulsive, free-spiritedness. It is exactly what she needed, but their whirlwind has to come to an end at some point, and Niki has to decide which path she will choose: returning to the familiar or entering the unknown world of living her life how she wants to, which Sam has shown her a glimpse of.
I enjoyed the writing style because it was so easy to read, and felt like Niki was a friend. I also liked learning more about Indian culture. While I can’t say for certain how realistic the depictions of Indian culture are, I felt very immersed in the descriptions of everything from the clothing to the food, the sights in India and the ways the characters spoke.
As some other readers have mentioned, this book is very much about Niki’s personal story of growth and self-discovery. It might not be a traditional romance in that sense, but I thought it made for a great, well-rounded story. Also, I kept picturing Richa Moorjani and Rushi Kota (Kamala and Prashant) from the show Never Have I Ever, the entire time while reading.
This was a light, fun, read and I’m so glad that I picked it up. I will definitely keep an eye out for future Sonya Lalli books.