Friday, November 25, 2022

Book Review: "All This Could Be Different" by Sarah Thankam Mathews

This book was a finalist for the National Book Award and several friends raved about it. The best description I’ve seen from people is that it is a quintessentially millennial novel, one that captures the angst of dealing with work, love, friendship, money, and family. Being a bit (ahem) older than a millennial, this book didn’t quite hit me the same way but it’s definitely well-written and powerful.

Sneha moves to Milwaukee for a consulting job shortly after college, at the cusp of the 2008 recession. The job is soul-crushing, but she actually likes some of it. But the job provides her with a free apartment (despite a challenging property manager), a group of colleagues she can at least drink with, and enough money to spend as she wants and still send money home to her parents in India.

All is definitely not perfect, though; she struggles with real connection. Although she is able to get a job for one of her college best friends, and while she finds a close friend, Tig, the dating apps aren’t helping her find a girl to really connect with. Then she meets Marina, a dancer and choreographer with her own set of problems.

Sneha’s life and those of her friends seem built on the flimsiest of foundations. Jobs are in danger, evictions are threatened, addictions are struggled with, and Sneha must come to terms with secrets she has tucked away.

These characters are flawed and complex, and Mathews isn’t afraid to show you their unflattering sides. That doesn’t always make for easy reading; at times characters are racist, transphobic, and fatphobic, but those attitudes are more typical of the time in which the book was set.

If anything, this book may make you happy you survived the stressful days of youth and made it to wherever you are now!!

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