The Other Side of the Bridge by Sophia Nesamoney
Publishing Details: Society of Young Inklings, Inc., September 2018
Back-of-the-Book Summary: Varsha Wilson, an aspiring American journalist who was adopted from Kolkata, spends her childhood trying to escape her past and integrate into American society. However, when she receives an unexpected assignment from her journalism professor, she finds herself searching for a winning story in the city where she was born. As Varsha struggles to find her place in India, she discovers a hidden world of child marriage, human trafficking, and violence against women, and, more importantly, the hope and bravery of two girls who will change her life forever.
Disclaimer: Unlike my previous book reviews, this book was sent to me by Author Marketing Experts in the hopes that I would write a review. However, I want to note that I am not being compensated for my review and all of the opinions expressed in this review are my genuine reactions to the book.
When Author Marketing Experts contacted me with a brief description of The Other Side of the Bridge to see if I was interested in writing a review, I was eager to get my hands on a copy. Fiction about women supporting women? A cast of characters that is almost entirely POC? Nuanced discussion of international adoption and the trauma of assimilation? Yes please.
What I Liked:
The Other Side of the Bridge first and foremost tells an interesting story. There’s no shortage of tragedy and drama, ranging form the “first-world problem” variety to straight-up human rights violations, but the true story lies in Varsha’s inner experience when it comes to America and India. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but just know that Varsha is a complicated, honest character throughout, even when that means contradicting herself or being somewhat “problematic.” The truth is, human beings are problematic and Nesamoney does an excellent job making Varsha a truly human character.
I also loved how Varsha’s parents are written. Even though they’re white and Varsha was in a rather destitute situation when they adopted her, they never take on the White SaviorTM role. They are consistently shown doing their best to help their daughter, but at the end of the day, she is the heroine of this story, not them, and I think that is incredibly important.
Finally, I loved Nesamoney’s voice throughout the book. Even though the book is written from several different perspectives, Nesamoney comes across loud and clear no matter who is speaking. To a certain extent, this factors into some things I didn’t love about the book, but at the end of the day, Nesamoney is an incredibly strong writer, with a voice that simply cannot be ignored, and I love that.
What I Disliked:
No book is perfect, including The Other Side of the Bridge. I think my biggest problem with the book is that it often comes off a bit unrealistic. I don’t mean the parts about child marriage and human trafficking, those sections actually ring very true despite their horrendous nature. My biggest problem was with the small scenes in Varsha’s daily life, whether she is in America or in India. It’s incredibly difficult to accurately portray life’s simple transactions, and this book definitely struggled in that area. The dialogue often feels forced, more like the conversations you construct in your head rather than the conversations you actually have throughout the day, and even though Varsha and her parents are both written complexly, they were perhaps a little too well-adjusted in their daily lives to be completely realistic. These little things pulled me out of the story repeatedly, which is a shame because the plot itself is intense and fascinating.
My other biggest complaint goes hand in hand with my final point about what I liked about the book: much of the story felt like Nesamoney was telling it to me, instead of immersing me in it. I hate to bring up the classic “show, don’t tell” because I feel that advice is oversimplified, but at the same time, there is something to be said for walking your reader through your world instead of simply giving them an audio tour. I think Nesamoney has so many things that she personally wants to say, it feels like she had a hard time giving up control to her characters. But like I said, this is also something I loved about the book. Nesamoney’s voice is unmistakably her own, and that’s usually a great thing, but I did feel it sometimes got in the way of the story.
You Might Like This Book If:
- …you want to read more about immigration, assimilation, and identity
- …you’re looking to read more books with POC main characters
- …you like YA fiction
- …you love books about women empowering other women