I have been enjoying the Amazon First Reads that feature Asian and Indian culture—I’ve been learning a lot. When I saw that The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah was about a pair of Indian women being transported to Paris, a city I am a little familiar with (and with a bit of a sleuthing twist), I liked that it was different from anything I had seen around. Dual POVs taking place in two different time periods is an excellent method of storytelling, in my opinion, so I was excited to jump in.
Nita Shah had everything most women dreamed of in her hometown of Ahmedabad, India—a loving husband, a doting daughter, financial security—but in her heart, she felt like she was living a lie. Fueled by her creative ambitions, Nita moved to Paris, the artists’ capital of the world—even though it meant leaving her family behind. But once in Paris, Nita’s decision and its consequences would haunt her in ways she never expected. Now that Sophie knows the truth, she’s determined to find the mother who abandoned her. Sophie jets off to Paris, even though the impulsive trip may risk her impending arranged marriage. In the City of Light, she chases lead after lead that help her piece together a startling portrait of her mother. Though Sophie goes to Paris to find Nita, she may just also discover parts of herself she never knew.
Book TW: Death of parents, Drug abuse/overdose, Domestic abuse, Addiction, Depression
What didn’t work for me
Nita: Though it was interesting to see how Nita and Sophie’s lives contrasted in Paris, and though we did get a lot of details about Nita’s life, I still feel like I didn’t always understand her decisions. For someone who made a life-altering decision for her happiness, once she gets to Paris, it’s almost like that drive goes away. It’s a bit strange.
The length: There was a lot of telling us what was happening instead of showing it in other ways, which meant the story dragged on longer than it should have. There were parts I was so tempted to skim because it was a lot of the same things being repeated, but with a slight tweak.
What I liked
The contrasts between Paris and Ahmedabad: Not only was there a dual POV that allowed us to understand how different Sophie’s time in Paris was from her mom’s, but the book did a very good job of juxtaposing Paris and Ahmedabad without saying that one was better than the other. I understand the Parisian culture a little better than I do the Indian, and I love that I learned some things about the latter.
The extra part of the journey: I don’t want to spoil anything, but when you think Sophie’s investigation into her mother’s past is over, there is a bit of a curveball that brings her to an unexpected second destination. I liked that.
This book ended up being a little darker than I expected (which you can probably tell from the trigger warnings), but I liked it in the end. I just wish the plot moved a little faster, and we were bogged down with a bit less telling.
“The direction of the wind cannot be changed, but we can change the direction of our sails.” —Mansi Shah, The Direction of the Wind