The Wedding Setup

Sonali Dev is an author I’ve been wanting to read for the past few years. Her Jane Austen retellings – featuring Indian characters and contemporary settings – have all caught my eye, and it’s just a matter of time before I buy them all and finally give them my full attention. Though I haven’t done that just yet, I was excited to learn she has a new short story coming out in just a few days: The Wedding Setup. I got an ARC of it from NetGalley and flew through it. If you want a quick (though not exactly light) read, this is a great one to pick up.

The Wedding Setup by Author
AudienceAdult
GenreContemporary Fiction; Romance
SettingIllinois, USA
Number of Pages67
Format I ReadeBook (NetGalley)
Original Publication DateJanuary 11, 2022

Official Summary

From USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev comes a heartfelt short story about one woman’s journey of self-discovery and what it means to be happy.

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

Review

The Wedding Setup focuses on a smaller cast of characters. First we meet 28-year-old Ayesha and her mother, her Amma. They are seven years in the aftermath of losing Ayesha’s older brother, Ajay; her father had passed away some years before that. The loss shattered their world, and Ayesha in particular hasn’t been the same since. Once a feisty and opinionated young woman, she now is meek and emotionally closed off. After losing her brother, she’d also pushed away his best friend – and the love of her life – Emmitt, and dropped out of her MFA program. By now, she’s overworked and still grieving, directionless and just a shell of her former self.

Right before her going to her best friend Bela’s wedding, Amma tells Ayesha she needs to hurry up and find a husband and have children. And Amma has just the man in mind: an ob-gyn who just arrived in Chicago. Conveniently, he’ll be at the wedding. Ayesha is not interested, but promises her mom that she’ll give him a chance. Little does she know that she’ll also run into Emmitt again. Should she rekindle her romance with him? Or choose this gynecologist her mother picked out?

The Wedding Setup is a heavier and more emotional story than I expected from such a short page length. Sonali Dev packs a lot of heart in, focusing on Ayesha’s grief, indecisiveness, and loss of self. Ayesha is in denial about a lot of things, and is unwilling or unable to face her own fears. Instead of following her own dreams, she’s fallen into a habit of just trying to please her mother: work at her restaurant, marry the man she chooses, and be the gentle daughter she’d always wanted.

More than a cheery romance, in The Wedding Setup, we see how someone who truly loves you can help in your darkest moments. Though I haven’t yet read any of Sonali Dev’s other books, it seems that she’s known for weaving tougher themes into her romances. It can also be compared to Helen Hoang’s latest novel, The Heart Principle.

The Wedding Setup is an emotional story in which love – both romantic and familial – can be what helps a person find herself again. It’s sweet and succinct, and by its end, we see how Ayesha is ready to rediscover who she is, what she wants in life, and who she wants in it. It’s a lovely and quick read with a depth that will stay with you.

Final Thoughts

Though only a short story, The Wedding Setup leaves an impact. It’s a great introduction to Sonali Dev and makes me even more eager to read her other books, includes her Rages series and her Bollywood series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

About the Author

Sonali Dev

Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.

Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.

Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s Best Books of the year lists. She has won the American Library Association’s award for best romance, the RT Reviewer Choice Award for best contemporary  romance, multiple RT Seals of Excellence, is a RITA® finalist, and has been listed for the Dublin Literary award. Shelf Awareness calls her “Not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today.”

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