Cover Image: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters
by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Pub Date: 13 Jun 2019

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an ebook of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book. It gave a wonderful insight into the experience of Sikh women in Britain. The plot was really intriguing with flashbacks and plot reveals in little bits to keep the reader's interest until the reveal.
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Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel follows three sisters on a road trip across India to complete their late mother’s last rites. In order to do this, the three of them have had to press pause on their own personal issues and focus on mending their fraught relationships with each other.

Jaswal’s writing is full of humour and warmth, delivering a narrative that’s both funny and poignant. The three sisters’ characters are distinctly drawn, from the bossy-but-capable Rajni, to the reserved Shireen to hot-mess Jezmeen. The narrative is split between the viewpoints of the sisters, which is useful for gaining an insight into their individual personal problems and for contrasting this against how each sister is seen by the others. 

What Jaswal does well in this book is to show how it’s possible for adult siblings’ relationships to fragment under the pressure of other relationships – marriages, children, careers all take their toll. But at the same time, there is always a sense that our siblings are the people who have grown up with us and who know our earliest and perhaps most authentic selves. As one of three sisters myself, I could relate to the close bond these three women clearly shared beneath all the bickering and teasing. 

This was a novel about the earliest and perhaps most lasting female relationships we have: between mothers and daughters, and sisters. It was about how we interpret the actions and motivations of those who love us/whom we love. And that despite the turbulence and uncertainty in other areas of our lives, sisterhood can act as a supportive and anchoring force. Put like this, it might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s saved from being mawkish or sentimental by Jaswal’s unique comedic sense: the part with the fish had me snorting with laughter – I won’t say any more.

Jaswal also explores cultural expectations of women and marriage, and while I’m always a bit wary if I think a book is in danger of playing to stereotypes, I think the diversity of experiences within the same family in the novel means she manages to walk the line between writing just another immigrant misery-chronicle, and actually tackling issues which are real and specific in some parts of Indian / South Asian culture. The only thing I was disappointed about was that we didn’t really see the moment where one of the characters finally stands up for themselves and walks out of an abusive situation. I wanted to see the perpetrators of that injustice face the consequences of their actions and felt slightly robbed of a more satisfying sense of closure. However I can also understand the decision not to go down this route, as this might have shifted the focus of the novel.

A great summer vacation read.
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This was such a beautiful story. I LOVED the three sisters coming together to honour the memory of their mother; i love their mothers motive and intent in making her children go on a pilgrimage. As a middle child of three daughters it made my heart swell.
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I cried buckets while reading. The grief storyline is so poignant and I heavily related to the feeling of diaspora conflict and ostracization. A beautiful book.
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I gave this book a try because of the title and the summary. I am glad I did. This was an amazingly delightful book. 
I loved the description of the two sisters, the sibling rivalry but most of all I loved their love for each other and the importance of family that this book tries to convey with every page of this story. I was captivated from the first word until the last.
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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is definitely one of the most evocative books I've read recently. Everything- from the setting, the vivid characters, the motivations behind our sisters, the lushness of the backdrop and the ingenuity that conspired during their travels (that hinted at the heartbreak within each one of them), made every page equally entertaining. 

To start with, Balli Kaur Jaswal does an outstanding job at transporting us to India - alongside the incredible, mouth-watering food, the societal problems, the serenely beautiful  landscapes, and the bustling streets where our 3 very different sisters traversed.  They each had their own story to unfold, past demons to deal with and life-changing decisions to take. All of which kept me hooked onto every word.

We follow our 3 sisters who are tasked upon their mother's last wishes to go on a journey in India to scatter their mom's ashes and fulfill certain tasks together that will help them reconnect with each other, their culture and their ancestral homeland. We follow Rajini- the strict, assertive and motherly figure who is dealing with her son's relationship 'crisis', Jezmeen- the wild, stubborn and fun-loving sister who is in the midst of a rapidly failing acting career and finally, Shirina- the quiet, polite, 'do-gooder' youngest child, who might be carrying a secret that threatens her new family's peace.

The book was an immersive experience to read because it felt like I was walking with our trio on the same streets, feeling their stress, understanding their misery towards their situations, appreciating the way they challenged their positions and got sad when they were crushed with the weight of the expectations on them. 

The story continuously peeled back layers so we get a glimpse at the motivations between each of our sister's actions- the backstories that shaped them or drove them to act in certain ways. It was enough to reel me in and reflect on their gracious expositions and narrations that heightened my emotions around their journey. The moment I was annoyed with a sister, I was thrust with the events they experienced- events that provided much perspective. 
 
SPOILERS:
 For instance, I was harsh on Rajini's strong-willed attitude that refused to accommodate her sisters, but then understood the guilt she was feeling. Or when I couldn't really come to terms with Jezmeen's occasional immaturity, the spotlight on the years of her quarreling and her need to be recognised shifted my view. Shirina seemed almost perfect but then we were given a heartbreaking insight on how she never felt visible in either family- the neglect ringing out loud. 

Similarly, their mother was driven to become superstitious and not necessarily be the most understanding or attentive towards her children because of the limitations that her strict husband's family placed on her. The expectations were of a very high standard. This doesn't wholly excuse her poor parenting though, which didn't necessarily give her daughters a solid enough childhood foundation but it does make her plight a lot more understandable. She barely had any choice. 
END OF SPOILER

This book is perfect for anyone who is willing to undertake a journey, one that puts the focus on family and culture . It's especially great for anyone of Indian descent, someone who has traveled to Northern India, or curious readers who don't mind googling places, food or rituals to fully appreciate the atmospheric experience. 

The story managed to unfold a lot more than healing past wounds though. We were whisked away to confront the realities of society- a situation, or at least aspects of it that resound all over the world and it was dealt with understanding, compassion and beauty. 

The book also deftly touches on the idea of always considering the ' what would others think' mindset that prevails in Asia, female discrimination, female feticide, double standards, rape culture, the growing feminist movement in developing countries, and how patriarchal hierarchy can influence the mindsets of communities, families and societies to the point where women are denied agency and freedom to make their own decisions about their careers and families- to the point where it becomes institutional. 

But despite all that, the book is never heavy to read because we breeze through the sisterly arguments and their reflections, whilst the wondrous music and food fill our senses. We are privy to snippets of history, the Sikh Religion and glorious north-Indian culture (from 3 distinct perspectives) alongside some of the bitter realities that exist within the country.

It's a tale of sisters, one that revolves around guilt, healing and then hopeful reconciliation that made me utterly content.
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I absolutely loved Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters was a perfect match! Deliciously rich in detail and wonderfully witty in its writing, this is a remarkable tale of home, heritage and the power of sisterhood, all wrapped up in a life changing pilgrimage to India.

Tradition versus modernity is skilfully illuminated within its stunning setting, and issues surrounding love, acceptance and forgiveness were enveloped between the delicate layers of each of the sisters personas and the bond they share with one another. 

I honestly cannot wait to see what Balli Kaur Jaswal gifts us next!
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I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It was light, entertaining yet thought provoking. It's about three sisters who complete a week long journey to India on behalf of their mother who herself had wanted to go before she died. Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina. She purposely preplanned their destinations and as they progressed through their adventures they learned so much about themselves and each others. It was a great read, so enjoyable and funny in parts. I really enjoyed it.
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Really enjoyed this book thank you. Vibrant, believable, characters and an absorbing plot. I will ensure I look out for this author in the future!
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Really enjoyable read. Good characters and a Good story. Well worth a read. Think others will enjoy.
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Thank you Net Galley. Ms Jaswal has written another delightful book. The importance of family and how it intertwines with identity is very well written. The problems of immigrants and their search for 'self' are written with sensitivity and understanding. Highly recommended.
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I did not read author's previous book but its definitely on my list after this one! Wonderful writing and story. Loved the characters and setting as well.
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This was the first book I have read by Balli Kaur Jaswal and it won't be the last. Sibling rivalry, tangled family past and descriptions of India that make you feel as if you are there, all combine for a gripping read. The sisters are very different in circumstance and outlook despite a similar upbringing and the personality clashes underscore the culture clashes that they experience. Thank you to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing such an absorbing and thought provoking read.
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After the death of Rajni, Jezebel and Shirinas mum the girls set off on a journey to India. 

Following the directions of their late mother and travelling through India, the girls discover secrets about each other.
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I had such a good time reading The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, The three sisters are very different, yet believably so, and I could appreciate their somewhat fraught relationships. This is a novel about building friendships which seems very apt in today's angry world! Having recently read Soulla Christodoulou's story, Unlocked, also set in India, I was interested to see how the Shergill sisters view of this country was coloured by their personal experiences while travelling. Being effectively women alone for the duration of their journey allows readers to see deep misogyny running rife through society. Rajni's experience particularly shows that this hasn't changed in recent decades and Shirina discovers that other women can be just as abusive as men.



The only aspect I struggled to believe was the device of the whole India trip being prompted by the sisters' mother writing a letter to them during her last night alive. It's a long letter and, being reminded of my own mother's last weeks with cancer, I just couldn't see how she had the energy. That aside though, I loved Jaswal's engaging prose style and would happily pick up more of her books in the future. I think The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters would appeal to fans of writers like Amanda Prowse, and to readers who appreciate a good family drama.
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Wow, this book blew me away!
For so long I’d wanted a book that I couldn’t put down and I couldn’t put down and this was it. Each page kept me hanging on for more.  The mystery surrounding each sister makes this novel so unputdownable. 
I thoroughly recommend this book. 

I was provided a free e-book via netgalley in exchange for an honest and fair review.
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My thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

This is, as the title suggests, the story of the Shergill sisters—Rajini, Jezmeen, and Shirina, who while not quite at loggerheads have drifted apart with time. Each is dealing with their own life problems—Rajini’s son is about to opt out of college and marry a woman twice his age, Jezmeen’s career is going only one way—downwards, and Shirina’s marriage is not turning out quite as she thought it would be—and not really aware of what the others are going through. When their mother, Sita Kaur, dies, her last wish is that they travel to India, taking a pilgrimage of sorts that she couldn’t go on because of her illness—taking them from Delhi to Amritsar, to the Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib, up in the Himalayas. So of course, the three must take that journey together, one that their mother had planned out for them in detail in a letter she left. Sita Kaur didn’t merely want them to travel to the places she wanted, but more so to spend time with each other and learn to get along once again (or perhaps as they never did). Needless to say, it doesn’t go entirely to plan, but because of this, they begin to face their own problems and also grow closer once again, when dealing with issues of inequality, family, tradition, and modernity.

This was a mixed sort of read for me. On the one side, I liked reading the story/stories (their individual stories as well as of their relationship with each other) of the three sisters, their lives, and how they ultimately handle the problems in their lives (in which at times, circumstances and (happy) coincidences also have a role). Some simply require a change in perspective (acceptance), while others more serious, life-changing decisions. I liked how the author handled these aspects of the story, especially that it was done realistically, with no ‘magical’ changes and yet a bit of magic at work (if that makes any sense). The picture of the country however, I wasn’t too thrilled with—I mean the author highlights various issues that the country is dealing with no doubt, including inequality and women’s safety, but the picture she presented felt to me far too gloomy, as though there is only darkness, no light, and that to me was off-putting. There is the negative, but that doesn’t mean that there is no positive, no hope, either, which I felt the book didn’t reflect.  

Three and a half stars.
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This book took me on an emotional journey. I went through many different emotions reading this book. 
The cultural descriptions in this book were so interesting 
In brief this was a remarkable story about remarkable women
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Another fabulous read from Balli Kaur Jaswal , I loved Erotic stories for punjabi widows and was so excited to read this, believe me I was not disappointed. It’s funny and touching, I loved the relationships between the sisters. It’s great in showing how secrets have an affect on everyone, it’s also wonderful to see the cultural differences and how it moulds them. A wonderful entertaining read, one you won’t be able to put down 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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Another fabulous book by Balli Kaur!
I absolutely loved her first one (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows). So, was extremely excited to read this one and she does not disappoint.
The book is based on three disconnected sisters who end up on a pilgrimage to India as a last request from their dying mother. The characters were very etched out and I could connect with many of them. 
This was a light read with plenty of comedic moments that at times made me laugh out load. 
I would definitely recommend to those after a quick light hearted read but wanting more than a chick-lit romance.
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