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by Sonia Singh. New York: Avon Trade Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Trade paperback, 352 pages. $13.95.

The quickest path to parental approval? Be the living incarnation of a goddess on Earth.

It was that simple.

Who knew?”

Perhaps Avon Trade Paperbacks knew, because with Goddess For Hire the company is launching its newest line of “chick lit” with an emphasis on ethnicity. Whether ethnic “chick lit” as a genre finds a readership or not (other books are scheduled to publish by Chinese-American and Latina authors), Singh should easily find fans because of her breezy, just-this-side-of-bawdy writing. The book’s humor is like sweet, pungent garlic pushed through a press and then ground with the most sizzling chili peppers. Humorous writing in any form is no simple task, but Singh’s gift for picking on the mundane as well as the gaudy trappings of the wealthy is brilliantly handled. She carries the weight of the comedy consistently and effortlessly through to the final page.

Maya Mehra, a single, rich, spoiled, unemployed, lazy, spendthrift, Hummer-driving, designer-label hugging Indian-American from frothy Newport Beach, Calif., is the antithesis of the stereotypical Indian woman. Plus, she is the only person in her family who is not a doctor. Favoring fast food and Starbucks, clubbing and dirty vodka martinis, her blissful credit card-supported life comes to a screeching, sharp curve, not once but twice, on her otherwise uneventful 30th birthday.

She barely survives the first curve—Aunt Dimple’s announcement that she has arranged Maya’s marriage and that Maya has to pick up the young man at the airport. Unlike most characters of South Asian origin, Maya literally runs from the concept of the arrangement but not without noticing how droolingly-gorgeous her self-absorbed intended is.

The second, more dangerous curve happens when she is kidnapped at the airport while retrieving her car. When she comes to, she is informed by an orange-robed pundit and his slight, visa-holding accomplice that she is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali. Tough luck for a girl who declares: “At the age of ten I’d taken a stand to stop attending the Cerritos Hindu Temple with my family. There were far more important things than learning the origins and teachings of one of the world’s oldest religions, namely, Sunday morning cartoons.”

Unable to abandon the immediate problems of her life, Maya finds herself in a love-hate, verbal-sexual relationship, during which time she also learns to call upon The Goddess Within for her newfound fight to rid the world of malevolence. She becomes good at her job as goddess but feels she can’t tell anyone about it. “Growing up in an Indian family, it becomes second nature to hide everything from your parents. First it was makeup, then non-Indian boyfriends, now bottles of Grey Goose vodka and, of course, my true dharma.”

Singh brings a fresh, funny, devil-may-care sense of the absurd to her characters and their situations, leaving the reader rejuvenated through unavoidable laughter therapy. There is great energy in Singh’s writing, which makes her characters crackle and explode like unexpected fireworks on a lazy summer night. She sparkles with wit in her observations of the contemporary world of young women suffering from too much money, too much time, and not enough sense of self worth. And lurking between the lines is the quiet statement that when you honestly accept who you are, others can’t help but follow suit.

Hopefully, this debut novel is the beginning of a long and creative career for Sonia Singh. Goddess For Hire is a most divine read, and as Maya says:

“If you can’t beat om.
Join om.”

Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes near Chicago, where she freelances as a copywriter and teaches Creative Writing to children through the Center for Gifted-National Louis University.

Jeanne E. Fredriksen lives in beautiful Central North Carolina where she is a long-time contributor to India Currents and a long-time Books for Youth reviewer with Booklist magazine/American Library Association....