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Mother Land
Cover of Mother Land
Mother Land
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

"Lively and evocative, Mother Land is a deftly crafted exploration of identity and culture, with memorable and deeply human characters who highlight how that which makes us different can ultimately unite us."—Amy Myerson, author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Imperfects

From the critically acclaimed author of America for Beginners, a wonderfully insightful, witty, and heart-piercing novel, set in Mumbai, about an impulsive American woman, her headstrong Indian mother-in-law, and the unexpected twists and turns of life that bond them.
When Rachel Meyer, a thirtysomething foodie from New York, agrees to move to Mumbai with her Indian-born husband, Dhruv, she knows some culture shock is inevitable. Blessed with a curious mind and an independent spirit, Rachel is determined to learn her way around the hot, noisy, seemingly infinite metropolis she now calls home.

But the ex-pat American's sense of adventure is sorely tested when her mother-in-law, Swati, suddenly arrives from Kolkata—a thousand miles away—alone, with an even more shocking announcement: she's left her husband of more than forty years and moving in with them. Nothing the newlyweds say can budge the steadfast Swati, and as the days pass, it becomes clear she is here to stay—an uneasy situation that becomes more difficult when Dhruv is called away on business.

Suddenly these two strong-willed women from such very different backgrounds, who see life so differently, are alone together in a home that each is determined to run in her own way—a situation that ultimately brings into question the very things in their lives that had seemed perfect and permanent . . . with results neither of them expect.

Heartfelt, charming, deeply insightful and wise, Mother Land introduces us to two very different women from very different cultures . . . who maybe aren't so different after all.


"Lively and evocative, Mother Land is a deftly crafted exploration of identity and culture, with memorable and deeply human characters who highlight how that which makes us different can ultimately unite us."—Amy Myerson, author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Imperfects

From the critically acclaimed author of America for Beginners, a wonderfully insightful, witty, and heart-piercing novel, set in Mumbai, about an impulsive American woman, her headstrong Indian mother-in-law, and the unexpected twists and turns of life that bond them.
When Rachel Meyer, a thirtysomething foodie from New York, agrees to move to Mumbai with her Indian-born husband, Dhruv, she knows some culture shock is inevitable. Blessed with a curious mind and an independent spirit, Rachel is determined to learn her way around the hot, noisy, seemingly infinite metropolis she now calls home.

But the ex-pat American's sense of adventure is sorely tested when her mother-in-law, Swati, suddenly arrives from Kolkata—a thousand miles away—alone, with an even more shocking announcement: she's left her husband of more than forty years and moving in with them. Nothing the newlyweds say can budge the steadfast Swati, and as the days pass, it becomes clear she is here to stay—an uneasy situation that becomes more difficult when Dhruv is called away on business.

Suddenly these two strong-willed women from such very different backgrounds, who see life so differently, are alone together in a home that each is determined to run in her own way—a situation that ultimately brings into question the very things in their lives that had seemed perfect and permanent . . . with results neither of them expect.

Heartfelt, charming, deeply insightful and wise, Mother Land introduces us to two very different women from very different cultures . . . who maybe aren't so different after all.


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About the Author-
  • Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    May 1, 2020
    Rachel, an aimless American newlywed, moves to Mumbai with her husband, Dhruv. Soon after, his mother, Swati, leaves her husband and life in Kolkata to move in with her son and his new wife. Soon after that, Dhruv's company sends him to work on a monthlong project in Kolkata, making the women unlikely roommates. The chapters alternate between Rachel's and Swati's close third-person perspectives, but unfortunately, neither of them contain enough complexity to carry the story. During an argument with Dhruv, Rachel thinks, "He sounded like his father, or like some stereotype from a movie, a cartoon figure, the generic 'disapproving male.' " But the same might be said of the women, who are little more than stale types themselves. Rachel is the quintessential individualistic American. Loving to cook makes up the bulk of her personality. Swati is a traditional Indian woman discovering herself beyond the roles of wife and mother late in life. She insists on hiring a cook against Rachel's wishes because that is the way things are done among a certain class of Indians. The cook conflict represents the power struggle between the two women, whose desires turn out to be more similar than different, predictably, but it's too one-note. Both women spend an awful lot of time alone, fuming about the other and ruminating on their own experiences. Rachel stumbles into voice-over work for an Estonian soap opera that's far more interesting than her own brooding. By the time the plot takes off in the novel's final quarter, when a friend of Rachel's visiting Mumbai forces her to confront hard truths about her choices and Swati finds a love interest, it's too late. The friction between Rachel and Swati is belabored and the friendship that eventually develops between them, belated. A slow story that misses the mark.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 25, 2020
    Franqui’s engaging outing (after America for Beginners) follows Rachel Meyer and husband Dhruv Aggarwal after their quick marriage and move from New York to Mumbai. Rachel’s struggles to adapt to life in India (she fails to pronounce basic Hindi words and cannot do the shopping) are compounded by her fierce independence, and she misses the convenience of her old life. After she discovers her mother-in-law, Swati, at their door, having left her home in Kolkata and her husband of 41 years, Rachel and Dhruv’s relationship begins to strain. Swati believes she can help Rachel understand India, and that in return the couple’s honeymoon glow will rub off on her. Meanwhile, Swati causes friction between the newlyweds by insisting a cleaning person come multiple times a day, and by hiring a cook despite Rachel’s interest in cooking. Rachel is aghast when Dhruv leaves her behind with Swati for a monthlong business trip. With Rachel’s encouragement, Swati adopts a modern clothing style, which increases her confidence and self-assertion when a man is sent to bring her back to Kolkata. While Rachel’s digressive, dishy narration and keen eye for cultural details contrast with her initial bumbling, Franqui smartly shows how Rachel recognizes her limits. The women’s credible learning from each other makes this a worthy tale of bridging a cultural divide. Agent: Julia Kardon, Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency.

  • Library Journal

    July 24, 2020

    After a whirlwind romance and impulsive marriage, thirtysomething Rachel happily leaves her life in New York City to join her husband, Dhruv, in Mumbai, where he has accepted a job with his investment bank for three years. She is eager to explore the wonders of India and expand her love of cooking. Then Swati, Dhruv's mother, arrives unannounced on their doorstep, saying that she envies the happiness she's observed in her son's marriage--a happiness she's never had. And that's it; she will be living with them. Rachel appeals to Dhruv for help, but he deflects her pleas as he leaves for Kolkata for a monthlong business trip where, ironically, he stays with his estranged father. The two women are left to their own strong-willed egos, with Swati insisting on imposing her will on Rachel's household, and Rachel hungering for independence; she explores the open-air food markets and eventually takes a part-time voiceover job as the lead character in a Romanian soap opera. In a lovely, cautious pivot, the two women slowly find common ground in the kitchen and on shopping adventures. VERDICT Award-winning playwright/novelist Franqui (America for Beginners) has written a beautiful novel featuring nuanced characters struggling to find their way through the landmines of the inevitable culture clashes with surprising, didn't-see-that-coming moments that carry through to the last page. [See Prepub Alert, 1/15/20.]--Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2020

    When thirtyish New Yorker Rachel Meyer moves to Mumbai with her Indian-born husband, Dhruv, the culture shock reverberates more harshly than she had anticipated. Even more shocking, Dhruv's mother arrives from Kolkata, explaining that she has left her husband and will move in with them. Now the two women are on a collision course. Following last year's popular America for Beginners.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal "Franqui has written a beautiful novel featuring nuanced characters struggling to find their way through the landmines of the inevitable culture clashes with surprising, didn't-see-that-coming moments that carry through to the last page."
  • Publishers Weekly "Engaging... [Rachel and Swati's] credible learning from each other make this a worthy tale of bridging a cultural divide."
  • San Francisco Book Review "Mother Land is as much a treatise on what it means to belong to oneself as it is a story of two women from opposing cultures.... [The] women discover they are not so different and learn from one another a secret to happiness that surprises them both."
  • Washington Independent Review of Books "Mother Land is a pleasant story of self-discovery and friendship with plenty of twists and intrigue to keep the reader engaged."
  • BookPage (starred review) "Unexpected...funny and relatable...[A] tender tale of two women who are lost and alone, but who eventually become allies and each other's biggest champions."
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Leah Franqui
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