Cover Image: A Great Country

A Great Country

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Member Reviews

I flew through this book in a day. Touching on social issues like police brutality, caste systems, racism, classism and immigration I felt initially hit over the head with the prejudices of the characters in the book. How ever the pace of the book was so speedy and the tautness of the story kept me very engaged. I haven’t quite read a story about racism from the perspective of an Indian American family and I found it eye opening. Could the author have done more character development? Sure but the short chapters and book worked to provide a pretty full story and showcase the nuances and Grey areas we live in.

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This was a solid 3/5 star read for me. A Great Country details the story of an Indian immigrant family struggling with systemic issues including the intersections of race, class, police brutality, and xenophobia. I thought this book had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it felt like the book was trying too hard to be relevant. There were many times where I felt like the plot was very rushed. I also wasn’t used to reading a book in third person, as I’ve been accustomed to reading in first person. I think it would’ve been helpful if the chapters were divided from each characters point of view but in first person instead.

Thanks to @netgalley and @mariner for providing me an ARC as an exchange for an honest review.

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The opening chapter had me hooked - Priya and her husband are a dinner event with coworkers when she receives a phone call that her 12-year-old son has been arrested. As the case against their son unfolds, the author also examines the social, political, and judicial processes many of us take for granted as White Americans.

I thought Gowda explored the experiences of immigrants really well and there were so many things that gave me pause. I do know that there are many experiences I can never understand that people of color must navigate on a daily basis, so I really appreciate when an author can bring those thoughts, feelings, and situations to light. I had to reflect quite often how I would handle the same situation with my children - both as a White family and as a family of color. Each scenario changes the situation completely! This would make for such a great book club choice full of lively discussion!

The ending was wrapped up very nicely - maybe even a bit too tide. However, as I think about it, it didn't bother me enough to care. The themes and nuances were enough for me to reflect on that the ending really is a minor issue for me.

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A Great Country is a timely book about family, class, and the "American Dream". The Shah family parents are recent immigrants from India, and their 12 year old son is arrested for a crime he didn't mean to commit. The story moves along quickly and gives the viewpoints of each of the family members. This would be a great book club read because there is so much to think about and discuss. Thank you, NetGalley and Mariner Books, for the advance reader copy of this thought-provoking book.

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Thank you Mariner Books #partner for gifting me an e-copy via NetGalley! I enjoyed this book so much that I had to get a finished copy and audiobook for myself!
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I’ve been withholding reviewing this book because I feel that my words cannot do justice to how A Great Book this is (see what I did?). We’re only on month 4 but I definitely know this book is making it to my top 10 2024 reads.

The story begins with an Indian immigrant family who finally gets to buy a new house in one of the poshiest Californian neighborhoods after years of planning and working hard to get to their current success. However their American dream comes to a standstill when their son gets mixed up in a terrible confrontation with the police. Their other two daughters also become involved in different situations and the family is left to contemplate the costs of immigrating even though they played by all the rules of the land.

What I REALLY loved about this book is the effective representation of different types of immigrants from different parts of the world, and also the differences of opinions and generational conflicts faced within immigrants. So often, our media places all immigrants into one giant box, and many Americans do not realize the different pathways immigrants have to move to The States. This book explains all this effortlessly, and for this reason, I highly recommend you read this book no matter where you stand on the issues of politics and immigration.

The author also presents current issues as facts without pointing fingers at a specific crowd. In the book, we come to know of good and bad cops, good and bad neighbors and that sometimes our support system comes from the most unexpected places. I have MAD RESPECT for this masterpiece and hope it makes its way into all the book clubs!

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A GREAT COUNTRY by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is a novel which uses suspense and family dynamics to explore attitudes towards race, immigration, class, and privilege. Early on, Gowda writes about how "a country whose global advantage was its diversity born of immigration was turning its back on what had made it great." She describes the lives of two hard-working immigrants, husband and wife Ashok and Priya Shah, who recently moved from Irvine to the wealthier enclave of Pacific Hills. Running their own business, they "keep their heads down" and seem to be fulfilling the American Dream. All of that is disrupted when their 12-year-old son, Ajay, is arrested by an over-zealous cop who fails to account for Ajay'’s age and communication difficulties likely attributable to autism. There are two older sisters, Deepa – a rebel at heart who prefers their old neighbors and tries to open her parents' eyes to "the challenges of being a visible minority and an obvious foreigner" – and Maya, a young high school student desperately trying to fit in and loosing her own identity in the process. A timely and well-crafted look into American society and a family in crisis, A GREAT COUNTRY received a starred review from Publishers Weekly who wrote "Readers won't want to put this down." I concur – I read this novel in two days – definitely recommended. Teachers, students, and book groups will find much to discuss: as Gowda prompts in her author's note when referring to the South Asian American post-pandemic experience: "the minority group often deemed to be 'model' in the US was being forced to reconsider its role and comfort level in this country. Should we be seeking common cause with other communities of color? Or protecting ourselves in dangerous times? What did it mean to be an American in this new context, hyphenated or otherwise?"

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I loved this book! It was so well written and to me a very interesting plot. It pulled at the heartstrings, what would you do if your young child was thrown in jail. But it went through everything going on with the siblings as well, it was rich and complex. I could not stop reading, I had to find out what happened. Looking forward to reading her other novels!

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This book was written from the view of an Indian family. The husband and wife marry in India and come to California on a student visa. They were excited to be getting away from the caste system, the crowding and the lack of opportunities "to get ahead" in India. Much of their life is good but hardships exist. These are not the same kinds of problems that exist for those of us born in the US, to established US families. Could you imagine coming to America on a student visa and fearing that you may not be able to get another one? How about being detained at an airport after 911 because you look like a terrorist? As the family moves upward, the lives of the children also changes. When AJ is arrestedt, the entire family is disillusioned by the events that are put into motion. This book was a bit of a cultural shock for me. I received this digital ARC from NetGalley and Mariner Books. This review is my own.

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I really liked this book and loved getting to know this family. I had a soft spot for all the kids, especially Deepa! There was a LOT going on in it….multiple side stories that I really wish were more fleshed out. This would make a great book club choice as there is SO much to talk about!!

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The Shah family have recently moved to Pacific Hills, an exclusive community in Southern California. Two decades before, the parents came to America just after they were married in search of greater opportunities — and, with this move and their burgeoning company, they feel like they may have finally reached their dreams. But their three children, all born and raised in the United States, are each struggling in their own ways. One night, the youngest child, only 12 years old, is arrested. The impact of this shocking turn of events reshapes the relationship each member of the Shah family has to their community and each other, as it forces them to confront external and internal dynamics they had previously been able to ignore. This is a powerful story of family and belonging.

Highly recommended.

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There is a lot to like about this! There are a lot of issues at play but the characters were well fleshed out and had their own motivation. I enjoyed the short chapters and misunderstandings. I think this would be great for book clubs! It reminds me of Angie Kim's writing.

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(Thanks to @marinerbooks #gifted.) I was fully, 100% immersed in the first three quarters of 𝗔 𝗚𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗧 𝗖𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗧𝗥𝗬 by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. This is a touching story of a successful, long-established Indian-American family living in an affluent Southern California community. On a seemingly normal Saturday evening, the family’s wires get crossed, and their 12-year old son Ajay unknowingly ends up at a place he shouldn’t be. He’s roughly arrested and hauled off to jail. Because he’s tall for his age and doesn’t communicate well, officers assume Ajay is older and he’s detained at an adult facility.⁣

The rest of the story revolves around the trauma of the initial arrest and all the repercussions of the charges against Ajay. The family must deal with lawyers, judges, the press, both kind and cruel strangers, and one another. Even worse, they face assumptions and hate based on their ethnicity, something they’d easily overlooked in the model life they’d lived. All this rocks the family to its core and that’s really what made this story shine. Their pain, confusion, and sorrow were palpable.⁣

Where the story fell down for me was in the last portion when things began to wrap up. The ending was just TOO neat and tidy. Every possible problem was resolved, too often in ways that felt inauthentic. The need to suspend disbelief should not be required in a literary fiction novel. In my opinion, 𝘈 𝘎𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘺 would have been better had some of its resolutions been more complex. It’s hard to rate when so much of the book worked, but that ending really disappointed me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

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Thank you partner, bibliolifestyle & Mariner Books for the gifted copy.

On paper this felt like a book that I would really enjoy, but there was a lingering undertone that didn’t sit right with me. On one hand it does a good job commenting on police brutality, racism, classism and whataboutism. While on the other hand the story is told in a very ablest lens, using harmful and outdated diagnostic terms and “cure”/“be normal” rhetoric.

I hope that this book will continue to spark conversations and open eyes while also serving as a reminder that intersectionality is imperative for lasting change.

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A Great Country was an excellent story. Reminiscent of Celeste Ng, this story follows two affluent families in Southern California whose lives are both turned upside down when the cops get involved. Told from multiple different voices, this story was jarring and riveting and I couldnt stop reading. So good!

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A Great Country by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is an impactful story about family, race and politics.

This is the first novel I’ve read from Shilpi Somaya Gowda and I’m huge fan now! Her writing is really well done and engaging. She created both an interesting sense of place and the characters felt unique and real.

A Great Country is promoted for fans of Little Fires Everywhere and Such a Fun Age, and I think are exactly the right comps for this read. But it’s also distinct and stands on its own as well. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.

A Great Country is a very well done novel that will certainly spark much discussion. I was engaged by this story and I’m so glad I picked it up. A fantastic book club read that will make you think about so much.

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"A Great Country" by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is a poignant exploration of immigrant identity, family dynamics, and the complexities of life in America. The Shah parents immigrate to the United States, where they build a life and raise their three children. Rooted in the belief of the American Dream and the value of hard work, their world is shaken when their 12-year-old son, Ajay, is arrested, prompting them to question their place in their adopted country.

Against the backdrop of Pacific Hills, California, Gowda delves into themes of privilege, social class, race, and the myth of the model minority. The dynamic between the Shahs' two daughters adds depth to the story, with them each navigating their teenage years in contrasting ways — one daughter passionately engages in social activism, while the other seeks acceptance within their affluent community.

Through rich character development and thought-provoking storytelling, the author invites readers to reflect on the complexities of identity and belonging in contemporary America. "A Great Country" offers an insightful and nuanced examination of the immigrant experience and the challenges faced by marginalized communities.

Overall, "A Great Country" prompts important conversations about privilege, identity, and social justice. It offers an insightful exploration of these themes and I would recommend it for anyone interested in exploring and better understanding the complexities of the American experience.

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4.5/5

A Great Country by Shilpi Somaya Gowda packs a powerful punch! Tackling topics such as racial bias and class divides, Gowda explores what it means to be the "model minority" in America. Sometimes, you can do everything right, and things still turn out all wrong.

After coming to the US for graduate school, Ashok Shah thought he was escaping the class issues prevalent in India. He and Priya have always made decisions based on giving their children the best lives possible. With his business flourishing and having just made the move to a more affluent neighborhood, Ashok felt his family was finally on the right track.

That is until one Saturday evening when Priya receives a call from the Orange County Jail. Their son Ajay has been arrested! In their rush to get to him, they struggle to understand what happened and why their son is in an adult facility when he's only twelve years old!

There are so many layers to A Great Country. As a mother, I identified with Priya's worries and concerns. Sometimes, it feels like we're always questioning our decisions, wondering if we're truly doing what's best. As a woman, it was encouraging to watch the enduring, heartfelt friendship between Priya and Archie, whom Priya met soon after settling in the US. That sense of support and community is so important in life. I also appreciated Gowda's exploration of the complex angles in the Shah family's story. It was eye-opening to read about issues I've never considered, such as the antiquated caste system in India and its carry-over in America.

I don't want to give anything away, but trust me, A Great Country is well worth the read! So many layers and so much to consider! It's available today and would be perfect for book clubs or buddy reads as there are a plethora of topics for discussion!

Read this if you like:
• Books that explore complex topics
• Strong female friendships
• Cultural heritage fiction

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“A Great Country,” by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Mariner Books, 256 pages, March 26, 2024.

Pacific Hills, California: Gated communities, ocean views, well-tended lawns, serene pools, and now the new home of Ashok and Priya Shah and their children Deepa, Maya and Ajay. The parents motto has always been work hard and don’t make waves.

Ajay Shah, 12, is in a jail cell. His parents, who are unaware of his arrest, are at a party at their friends, the Sharmas. They thought he was at the robotics lab at school. Deepa, who was supposed to pick up Maya and Ajay, is at a pro-immigration rally. The fallout from the arrest will shake each family member’s perception of themselves.

The story that follows is fairly predictable, as each family member comes to change their thinking over the course of the book. I didn’t connect with the characters and I think it gave too much detail of the lives of minor characters. The plot was inconsistent. This just wasn’t for me.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, the advance reader's edition of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

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I sat down to read A Great Country when my Internet went down for half a day. A Great Country was the perfect book to fill the time. Before I knew it, I had read the entire book. The novel is much stronger on plot than it is for its character development. The story - a family whose parents immigrated to the US from India two decades earlier is on its way to assimilating into an upscale predominantly white neighborhood when their young, 12-year old Ajay, is picked up by the police for flying his homemade drone over a local airport. Although undiagnosed, away is clearly "on the spectrum" and his dad turns to a wealthy fellow entrepreneur, also Indian, for help. In the end, though, it is old friends who provide the family with the support it needs while the case is taken up not only by the criminal justice system but by a group advocating for racial justice. The relationship between mom and the mother of a similarly-aged black boy who was murdered seems artificial, and the characters are not really explored in any depth, but most of this novel tells a realistic and important story of immigration, discrimination, and relationships, among other important topics. Recommended..

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This is a fantastic book. Every Indian person who has emigrated to the USA or has family who has emigrated there will find that the story resonates with them. Ashok and Priya moved to USA in pursuit of the American dream. They believe that they have more or less achieved that on the professional front and are raising a family of three children in the plush neighborhood of Pacific Hills in California. The kids are all American born American citizens and Ashok and Priya have also obtained American citizenship. And the kids are inevitably growing up American no matter their exposure to Indian values and way of life at home. Despite all these efforts to become American, Ashok and Priya find that their brown skin sets them apart. When their younger son Ajay gets into an altercation with the police, the ingrained discrimination and prejudices become all the more apparent. The author has written the story in a very candid, very nuanced manner with a lot of attention to detail. What unfolds is a vivid picture of immigrant life in the great country, the USA. A must read. I loved it.

Thank you Netgalley, Mariner Books and Shilpi Somaya Gowda for the ARC

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