A moving story of alienation and identity, (Un)arranged Marriage
follows teenager Manny as he struggles to maintain his links to his
family and live his own life.
The toilets in the motorway
service station at Leicester Forest East stank of disinfectant. But at
least they were warm compared to the biting wind that was kicking up
outside in the car park - where my two brothers Harry and Ranjit were
waiting for me. Waiting to take me to Derby, to a wedding--my
wedding. A wedding that I hadn't asked for, to a girl who I didn't
On the morning of his marriage, which also
happens to be the morning of his 17th birthday, Manny looks back on his rebellious teenage years.
From the age of 13 he has found that the values of the Leicester Punjabi community from which he comes have little relevance to him. He has nothing in common with his brothers or parents. Manny's older brothers appear to him to glory in their ignorance while his father is a hypocritical, violent drunk. His mother is a remote figure who appears only to ask what he wants to eat or to cry hysterically at his disobedience. Knowing that he is expected to follow the same path as his brothers into an arranged marriage at the age of seventeen and a blue collar job, Manny makes the decision to try to make himself the most unsuitable suitor possible, the bridegroom that no-one will choose for their daughter. Finally though, it is a family trip to India which irrevocably sets Manny's mind on the course he had always suspected that he would have to take.
Written in the first person, (Un)Arranged Marriage feels very much as if it is inspired by personal experience, if not of Manny's specific situation then of his environment. The characters inhabit an unsentimental, realistic world, a world where kids often don't try quite hard enough at school and families cannot bridge the huge generation gaps between them. Perhaps what is most striking about Manny is his complete alienation from the Punjabi culture which his family are trying so hard to preserve, and his overwhelming detachment is skillfully captured here. The culture that Manny inherited is completely eclipsed as he embraces the Western culture he finds everywhere outside his home and which offers him the choices he desperately wants. --Rachel Ediss
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"Any teenager under pressure from his or her parents to conform will enjoy this novel" (Guardian
"Rai has an unselfconscious style and a dry sense of the ridiculous . . . An appealing subversive edge" (TES
"Absorbing and engaging . . . A highly readable debut from Bali Rai that teenagers of any culture will identify with" (Observer
"Energetically and pacily written . . . There is a vitality and freshness about Rai's writing that engages the reader . . . An intriguing debut that promises well for the future" (Books for Keeps
"Brilliant" (Amanda Craig The Times
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