In this debut novel, Indo-Canadian novelist Gurjinder Basran depicts a young woman so suffocated by the gender expectations of her traditional Punjabi culture that only a drastic form of escape will save her soul. This is a darker and more dangerous take on the typical immigrant's tale--and it feels refreshingly blasphemous. The disavowal of tradition, combined with a breathlessly melodramatic story of fated tragic love, makes Everything Was Good-bye a passionate, unusual and breezy read.
Meena, the youngest of six daughters growing up in British Columbia with a widowed mother, chafes at both the taunts of her white high school peers and the ironclad conventions of the local Punjabi community. She falls for handsome outsider Liam, but he leaves town and, after some college experimentation, Meena falls into an arranged marriage. When Liam returns to her life, every version of her future seems impossible and she is forced to confront how much of what she needs she is willing to live without.
Basran's greatest accomplishment is to depict a world of relatives and near-relatives that pin Meena in at every turn but also, importantly, represent the only means through which Meena can live as part of an interactive, meaningful society. Though she indulges the novel's cornier side with an emotionally amped-up climax, the mawkishness never completely drowns the candor and the reader is left pondering deep questions of submission and identity. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic