Blink Book Review #4: "Our Best Intentions" by Vibhuti Jain
By Reba Campbell
“Our Best Intentions” by Vibhuti Jain revolves around an Indian immigrant family living in a small, well-to-do New York suburb. The father, Barbur Singh, is raising his teen-aged daughter, Angela, alone after his wife abandons the family when Angela is a young child.
With a singleness of focus and a remarkable innocence about the ways of the world, Barbur attempts balancing the grueling schedule of his small business with ensuring Angie has what she needs to succeed in her highly competitive high school swimming career.
During summer vacation, Angela stumbles upon a fellow high school student who has been stabbed on the school’s football field. This discovery drops Barbur and Angela squarely into an unfamiliar world of the community’s upper crust shattering their innocence about what’s right and wrong.
The book has all the elements of a well-told story. The characters are developed with plenty of subtleties that ultimately converge at the end. Jain touches on many aspects of race, family conflict, poverty, stereotypes, class distinctions, wealth, aspirations, privilege and ambitions. She deftly weaves together viewpoints of two generations of diverse characters.
The characters are believable and complex without becoming tiresome for the reader to keep track of their intersecting stories. I particularly loved how Jain overlaid the politics of high school, race, class, and school board into the story.
I learned of this book from listening to the book club segment on the NPR program, 1A (listen to this segment if you enjoy hearing an author’s backstory). This preview enriched my reading experience thanks to the author’s interview. Jain tells of how she based the book on her own lived experiences as an Indian-American and how she came to write this story about a similar crime that she learned about from an Uber driver who picked her up from the airport in New York.
In the 1A interview, Jain notes one of the changes she made based on input from her editor and beta readers was the ending. While the ending makes sense, I was still a bit disappointed. I like a book to finish tied up with a bow.
I listened to the audio version of this book. The seasoned voice actor, Ulka Simone Mohanty, did a very good job of narrating switching among a variety of characters, most particularly hitting spot-on the voice of Barbur, the father.
In 2022, Reba Campbell set out to get off the screens and back to books for the summer. She set a goal of reading a book a week. Her accountability was writing short Blink Book Reviews (so short you can read them in a blink). John Reba’s Blink Book Review FB group to follow along for the 2023 summer series. Reba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content is being shared through the S.C. News Exchange and is for use in SCPA member publications. Please use appropriate bylines and credit lines.