discussion questions

  1. At first Nikki thinks “All of the women seemed to end up the same… weary and shuffling their feet.” And then they profoundly and delightfully surprise her with their stories, their friendship, their resilience and their late night soft porn TV viewing. Did you have a favorite widow? Who was she and why did you relate to her.
  2. Nikki rejected Punjabi tradition so soundly that she had a falling out with her parents over it. And yet, she decided to take up teaching the class at the temple. What were her initial motives for the move and how did her motivation change over time?
  3. Early in the book Jason says “All I’m saying is that I’ve always been aware of the pressure to follow rules and meet expectations.” Later, we find out just how and why he experienced that pressure. What did you think of Nikki and Jason’s relationship? Would you have forgiven him for lying?
  4. Two thirds of the way into the book, the plot takes a murder mystery twist when Sheena tells Nikki about her suspicions regarding the deaths of Maya, Karina and Gulshan. Did you see that coming?
  5. Talk about the erotic stories! Which were your favorites? Did your reading glasses steam up? Did they make you want to write your own stories?
  6. Arranged marriages (and how they do and don’t work), were a major part of the plotting. What do you know about arranged marriages? Are they a part of your culture? Do you know anyone who is in an arranged marriage?
  7. Talk about Kulwinder’s journey from a strict, intimidating woman who is deeply unhappy to a loyal friend and advocate for the women of the Temple. How did you respond to Kulwinder at first? Did your feelings change?
  8. “Britain equaled a better life and they would have clung to that knowledge, even as this life confounded and remained foreign. Every day in this country would have been an exercise in forgiveness.” In this passage near the end of the book, Nikki is feeling sympathy for the difficulties of that the widows experienced during immigration. They were told Britain would be a better life, but then they each had adjust when they found it not so welcoming. Have you experienced that sort of displacement? Does it happen in your community?
  9. In Notting Hill, a couple stops Nikki to ask her for directions to Hyde Park, which she sort of fumbles. Upon walking away the wife says “maybe we should have asked someone who’s from here”. As we know, Nikki is “from here”. Have you ever witnessed or unwittingly performed this kind of othering? How do you supposed a native born person of color would react to this sort of slight?
  10. In an interview Jaswal says that “It seemed that women were put in charge with policing girls, because we occupied the same spaces, but they answered to men and and so much of their monitoring was about meeting the men’s expectations about how their sisters, daughters or wives should behave”. This certainly isn’t happening only in Sikh culture. What are some ways that your own culture, community or country also performs this sort of monitoring?