This first novel written by woman born in India who grew up in Cardiff and now lives in London is about an immigrant family living in Wales. The intensity with which the father, an academic, focuses on making his daughter a math genius makes the helicopter parents we know appear neglectful. Every moment of her life is scheduled and almost all of her schedule involves studying math. He tried to schedule the life of his wife when they first arrived in Wales, but Shreene was too independent and volatile. She married Mahesh with the promise that after he finished his PhD, they would return to India, but this was never his intention. She always pined for India, and had no interest in preparing her children for their new lives in Europe.
Rumi is a wonderful, well-developed character. Her reaction to the stresses in her life and the fractured world she lives in are realistic, though I’ve never heard of an addiction to chewing cumin seeds. The compulsion to consume them despite what they do to her mouth and the lengths she goes to in order to have them is impressive.