Sita Kaur Shergill leaves a deathbed letter for her three daughters, a death bed request they go on a journey together to specific places in India where they will at end of the path she provides, scatter her ashes. The girls are not close.
Rajni, the eldest, is a school principal married to Kabir. She starts the journey under considerable pressure from problems at home. Her only child, Anil, is fresh out of school, at 18 he is moving in with his pregnant girlfriend, a woman of 36.
Middle sister Jezmeen, an actress, has been spiraling out of control for a while; drinking too much, frustrated that her career is not going where she hoped. While behaving badly, having a meltdown at a restaurant, she is caught on video, it goes viral leaving her in the aftermath not only unemployed, but possibly unemployable.
Shrinia, the youngest, opted for an arranged marriage and a traditional life. In a storybook wedding, she became Sehaj’s wife, moving to Australia where they live with his mother. But she may not be living a dream. T
The only one of the three British sisters to have been in India prior to this trip, is Rajni. She accompanied her mother when she was 16, there are secrets from that journey unknown to the other sisters. So the three girls, with different lifestyles, desires, and obligations, set out on a pre-programmed trip to the places their mother wanted them to visit leaving lots of room for comedy, upset, chaos, and ultimately the refreshing cleansing of their secrets and fears.— Deon Stonehouse
The author of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows her acclaimed America debut with this life-affirming, witty family drama—an Indian This Is Where I Leave You—about three Punjabi sisters embarking on a pilgrimage to their homeland to lay their mother to rest.
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking "good" sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.
On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.
Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a female take on the Indian travel narrative. "I was curious about how different the trip would be if it were undertaken by women, who are vulnerable to different dangers in a male-dominated society," Balli Kaur Jaswal writes. "I also wanted to explore the tensions between tradition and modernity in immigrant communities, and particularly how those tensions play out among women like these sisters, who are the first generation to be raised outside of India."
Powerful, emotionally evocative, and wonderfully atmospheric, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a charming and thoughtful story that illuminates the bonds of family, sisterhood, and heritage that tether us despite our differences. Funny and heartbreaking, it is a reminder of the truly important things we must treasure in our lives.
About the Author
Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and grew up in Japan, Russia, and the Philippines. She studied creative writing at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and was the National Writer-in-Residence at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, where she taught creative writing while working on Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. She lives in Singapore.
“A playful yet profound novel [that] moves easily from heartfelt to humorous…what may seem to be a singular story about first-generation London-bred Punjabi women evolves into a story universal to us all.”
— USA Today
“An absolute delight…sad, joyful, and exciting all at the same time.”
— Bookpage (starred review)