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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

Review

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

Balli Kaur Jaswal is a Singaporean writer who was raised around the world, from Japan to the Philippines to the US. In 2018, her third novel, EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS, was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. Just one year later, Jaswal is back with another astonishing book. THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF THE SHERGILL SISTERS follows the pilgrimage of three estranged sisters as they return to India to fulfill their dying mother’s final wishes.

As the novel unfolds, so do the complicated layers that weave together their relationships. Ever since they were little, the British-born Punjabi sisters have never gotten along. Rajni, the oldest, has always known best and never failed to convey that to her sisters. As the eldest, she took on the role of a parent to her younger siblings due to their large age gap. At a young age, Rajni’s responsibilities only grew after their father’s death and the disastrous trip to India that shortly followed with their mother. Rajni continues to keep the truth of that excursion and recent events in her life from her sisters until their pilgrimage, where old memories begin to stir and revelations come to light.

"Jaswal beautifully depicts the complicated relationships of three sisters who have long struggled to communicate and understand each other."

After Rajni punched Jezmeen in the hospital, the last thing Jezmeen wanted was to go on an arduous trip with her bossy older sister. As the middle child, Jezmeen always fought for attention growing up and rebelled against Rajni's perfect appearance. As a struggling actress, not much has changed over the years. Jezmeen’s recent incident with a very rare and fragile fish is poised to ruin her career before it even takes off. With the stress of her career and the recent loss of her mother, her drinking intensifies, resulting in a breakup and a few hours in an Indian jail. However, Jezmeen’s focus on herself slowly shifts as the sisters begin completing their mother’s final requests.

While she may be the youngest, Shirina is not one to follow along with either of her older sisters. She forged her own path, marrying her husband through an online dating service for arranged marriages and moved to the other side of the world. She could not wait to leave behind the dysfunction of her own family in exchange for what appeared to be the perfect one. She quickly learns that living with her mother-in-law will not be as simple as she thought, and sacrifices will need to be made to keep the peace. Unbeknownst to her sisters, the pilgrimage contains ulterior motives for Shirina. The fate of her marriage weighs on an impossible decision that she struggles with throughout their journey.

THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF THE SHERGILL SISTERS carries similar themes of family dynamics and the immigrant experience that appear in Jaswal’s previous writing. She intimately portrays the difficulty of integrating into the culture of the country in which you live while not forgetting the culture of the country from where your family emigrated. She illustrates the tough balancing act as the Shergill sisters reflect on growing up in Britain while witnessing India as adults. Although raised in the same house, they each have very different experiences and perspectives of their childhood and their family. After years of growing apart, the distance between each other feels impenetrable.

Jaswal beautifully depicts the complicated relationships of three sisters who have long struggled to communicate and understand each other. They remind you how important it is to lean on the ones you love and trust them with your story. With each page, Jaswal delivers more detail to her intricate tale, adding suspense and anticipation for her readers. She brilliantly builds the tension between the sisters until delicately unraveling each character at the very end. THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF THE SHERGILL SISTERS is another home run for Jaswal, who leads her readers on a pilgrimage of their own through her characters.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubino on May 24, 2019

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters
by Balli Kaur Jaswal

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062645145
  • ISBN-13: 9780062645142