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Imaginary Men    by Anjali Banerjee order for
Imaginary Men
by Anjali Banerjee
Order:  USA  Can
Downtown Press, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

Anjali Banerjee debuts in Imaginary Men, a chick lit story that takes place in the Indian-American community. The main character, Lina Ray, initially seems stereotypical of genre heroines - a single professional in her twenties, looking for love. But the more one reads this novel, the more it stands out from the crowd. While romance is the main story line, a sub-theme shows how hard it is for those pulled between two cultures to find a middle ground.

The book opens with Lina Ray in her hometown of Kolkata, India, attending her sister Durga's wedding. Lina Ray fears her Aunt Kiki's overbearing personality - because Lina Ray is still single, despite being the eldest sister, Aunt Kiki will be playing matchmaker again. This time, Kiki's idea of the perfect match is a guy Lina Ray refers to in her mind as 'Pee Wee Herman'. Not good. To avoid being tied down, she lies to everyone, saying that she is already engaged to a man named Raja.

Just moments before, Lina Ray was outside (avoiding the crowd), and bumped into a very good-looking man named Raja Prasad. He told her that he was single but looking for prospects - the more they chatted, the more she realized that Raja was a chauvinist pig looking for a wife to take care of his house and his children. Yet, Lina Ray was attracted to this man, who looks like a Hindu god, and told him of her life in San Francisco, working at Lakshmi Matchmakers. Unfortunately, the two could not be more different.

Back home in America, Lina Ray knows she needs to find a fiancÚ quick, since she's told her family of an engagement. Her partner Donna helps her find dates, but with no success. But lo and behold, Raja makes a surprise visit while in the States on business, asking Lina Ray to help his brother find a wife. Raja and Lina Ray start to spend time together, and it sure doesn't seem like 'just business'. Surprise, Surprise! Lina Ray's lies eventually catch up to her. How will she fix things, now that she's bungled up her life and shamed her family?

This India-based chick lit novel stands out for its fun characters - including Lina Ray's best (gay) friend Harry, and the various men she ends up dating - but also for a thin thread of sadness due to the fact that Lina Ray cannot move past her prior engagement to Nathu, now dead for two years. I'd love to read more by Anjali Banerjee.

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