A review copy of this book was provided by Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.
India is a place I’ve always wanted to visit and while it’s still on my bucket list I’m trying to read as many books set there as possible. Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu definitely ticked a lot of boxes for me – it’s a work of literary fiction set in India about a millennial woman attending a lavish wedding. Destination Wedding is a big vibrant book with lush settings, family drama, and an interesting story of a woman trying to figure out what she wants in life.
When Tina Das finds herself at a crossroads both professionally and personally, she wonders if a weeklong trip to Delhi for her cousin’s lavish wedding might be just the right kind of escape. Maybe a little time away from New York will help get her mind straight about her stalled career, her recent breakup, and her nagging suspicion that she’ll never feel as at home in America as she does in India. Tina hopes this destination wedding, taking place at Delhi’s poshest country club, Colebrookes, will be the perfect way to reflect and unwind.
But with the entire Das family in attendance, a relaxing vacation is decidedly not in the cards. Her amicably divorced parents are each using the occasion to explore new love interests—for her mother, a white American boyfriend, for her father, an Indian widow arranged by an online matchmaker—and Tina’s squarely in the middle. A former fling is unexpectedly on the guest list, a work opportunity is blurring the lines of propriety on several fronts, and her best friend Marianne’s terrible penchant for international playboys is poised to cause all sorts of chaos back home. The accommodations are swanky, the alcohol is top-shelf, but this family wedding may be more drama than Tina can bear and could finally force her to make the choices she’s spent much of her life avoiding.
Infused with warmth and charm, Destination Wedding grapples with the nuances of family, careers, belonging, and how we find the people who make a place feel like home.
The prose in this book is insanely descriptive – whenever I read a scene, I could almost smell the flowers or see the over the top displays of wealth at the wedding. Not only that but the book also did a really good job of contrasting the wealth and opulence of the wedding with the true nature of Delhi just outside the gates. The book used shifting points of view – which was a powerful tool in achieving this contrast of settings of the version of Delhi the wedding was portraying, and the version of Delhi that most people actually live in. For example, when Tina was wandering the city with Sid, she would often not see past the poverty to the actual human beings in front of her. Then, the POV would switch, and as readers, we would get to see what the person Tina perceived as a beggar was thinking. This democratized the image the author painted of Delhi, and really helped to point out the flaws in Tina’s perception and character.
The one drawback of this book was the lack of a cohesive underlying storyline. This novel was basically a mishmash of exploring different characters’ backstories leading up to the wedding along with Tina working to find herself. A lot of the story just focused on how characters were processing events in their histories – there was no overarching plot outside of all of the characters attending the wedding. Having a bit more of a storyline is what would have elevated this book to a five-star read for me, but its ability to develop characters and beautiful settings definitely helped save this book.
There was a huge array of characters in Destination Wedding – everyone from Tina to her parents, to staff at the country club, to the wedding planner, to the grandmother of the groom was given a point of view at some point. Diksha Basu had a real knack for developing characters quickly – there were characters who only appeared for a page or two but had plenty of backstory and definition. I could instantly understand and relate to a character who only appeared for a paragraph or two – that takes some serious writing chops.
Tina was a complex, confused, and fascinating character. When Destination Wedding begins, Tina is at a crossroads: she has achieved a lot in her career, but she’s not satisfied with the work she does or her previous romantic entanglements. Additionally, she’s never gotten over her parents’ divorce (though they had a remarkably healthy relationship). All of this combined created a lot of potential for personal growth – and grow she did. She spent most of the book exploring Delhi and her own roots – finding herself and new passions along the way. Her story is ultimately one of self-reflection and her choosing what she wants in life.
Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu wasn’t a perfect book, but the authors talent for building a vibrant and well described setting, for crafting interesting characters, and for making you really think about how wrong your perceptions and assumptions of others can be really made it a good novel. The sole drawback of this book was the meandering plot – and the lack of a true storyline. If you’re looking for other great books, check out The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test, or The Wedding Date. 4/5