If You See Me, Don't Say Hi
Booklist Reviews 2018 June #1
Debut-author Patel's 10 compact yet meaty stories feature characters—most of them first-generation Indian Americans, as the author is—trying to navigate a world full of expectations (go to college, land a prestigious job, get married, have children) only to find themselves continually thwarted. Like the young man in the story "Just a Friend," who finds himself in a seemingly perfect, whirlwind relationship with an older man, and soon discovers that nothing is what it seems. Or the woman who is dating the "right" man (one her parents approve of) yet seeks out a one-night stand with the Wi-Fi fix-it guy. Several of the stories deal with young love, of the kind where characters imagine themselves together forever only to end up strangers (hence the book's title). Patel explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters in even the briefest stories. Readers in search of a fresh new voice should be on the lookout for Patel. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2018 May #2
The 11 seemingly casual and quietly feverish stories in Patel's debut follow the plight of young first- or second-generation Indian-Americans. Some characters are gay and some straight, but most of them have grown up in suburban Midwest towns where they are viewed as vaguely exotic as, in an effort to find love, they struggle to please or break away from their families. Expected to become doctors or lawyers, they often rebel in sneaky or ineffective ways. In the wrenching "Just a Friend," 22-year-old bartender Jonathan falls for, and completely fails to understand, the much older, anxious immigrant Ashwin, who wears expensive clothes and conceals or lies about most of the details of his life. In the title story, the narrator and his older brother, Deepak, move from a close friendship to a state of war over the decades, as Deepak flunks out of a "marginally rated college," joining his disappointed parents in running the motel they own, while the narrator goes to medical school. "World Famous" is told from the point of view of a member of an ill-fated couple: Ankur, a medical student from a wealthy family, is attracted to his former high school classmate Anjali, whose family is upwardly aspiring, but their relationship is doomed because of their class discrepancy. Patel has a knack for depicting the gap between how characters experience their lives and how they are expected to be seen—and how those gaps can widen into life-changing fractures. This is a perceptive, moving collection.