ANYONE CAN BE EXTRAORDINARY. BUT IT COMES AT A PRICE…
Neil Narayan’s parents moved to America for a better life, and his perfect older sister is now headed to an elite university. Neil is funny and smart, but he is not living up to his parents’ dream. While he tries to want their version of success, mostly, Neil just wants his neighbour across the street, Anita Dayal.
Once a lot like Neil, Anita is truly thriving academically, athletically and socially. Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewellery’s original owner. Anita just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. When Neil – who needs a whole lot more – stumbles onto their secret and joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.
Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned history grad student studying the California gold rush. Anita has given up her high-flying tech career and is working as an event planner, just for now. Anjali, the woman who gave them both so much, is in trouble, and only gold can save her. What choice do Anita and Neil have but to pull off one last heist?
Gold Diggers is a dazzling coming-of-age story that speaks to anyone who ever wondered quite how they belong, and who ever dreamed of being the very best they could be.
Neil and Anita have known each other since they were young and Neil likes Anita more than a friend. Neil is struggling with his studies and the high expectations of his parents. Neil has always been fascinated with Anita and her unconventional upbringing. One night Neil breaks into Anita’s basement and finds what can only be described as a DIY laboratory and what appears to be lemonade which he drinks. What transpires is that Neil hasn’t drunk lemonade but is a gold potion that is brewed by Anita’s mother using stolen jewellery. Drinking the potion gives the recipient the power to achieve their ambitions because the gold is infused with the owner’s good luck and hopes which is then transferred to the drinker. Neil hopes that the potion will make him more successful. However, all actions have consequences and when Neil and Anita reconnect 10 years later can they escape the ghosts of the past for one last heist.
This was an unusual and unique read. As soon as I read the synopsis I knew this was going to be a different story to anything I’ve read before and it didn’t disappoint. As someone of Indian heritage all of the characters felt very real and it was hard not to identify with them. The author has done a brilliant job in writing characters who are trying to balance being both American and Indian at the same time i.e. trying to find a place in America but not leaving behind their heritage. In Neil and Anita’s case they are definitely the perfect description of ABCDs American Born Confused Desis. There were some comedic moments like when Neil’s sister Prachi is going to college and their mother insists that they go to the temple every time they buy something new from Prachi’s college list (this does happen). Of course who can forget the mention of turmeric milk which every Asian parent makes their child drink as they believe it will cure any illness. It’s still a big no no for me. And the mandatory bhajan (prayer) that every child is made to listen to. What I also enjoyed about the book was the side story regarding the gold rush and it fitted into the main story perfectly and complemented the gold theme which runs throughout the book.
This is a coming of age story about identity with a touch of alchemy and magic.
A Paul and Daisy Soros fellow, Sanjena Sathian is a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has worked as a reporter in Mumbai and San Francisco, with nonfiction bylines for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more. And her award-winning short fiction has been published in Boulevard, Joyland, Salt Hill, and The Master’s Review.